If there’s one thing people struggle to improve the most workwise, it’s definitely productivity. At some point, we’ve all had the feeling of not doing enough at work – either because we’ve not completed all tasks from our worklists or haven’t met a deadline or two. So we ask ourselves what to do to work more effectively, start to look for little time-wasters we can eliminate and come up with productivity techniques we’d like to try out, one after another. And that’s all perfectly fine – finding the right technique for yourself is indeed the key to increasing productivity. But what if I told you there’s something very simple that can work wonders? And even more so – that it’s something you’d consider a pleasure rather than a method you have to force yourself to put into action?
Even though it might sound too simple to work, research shows that background music has an influence on productivity, especially when it comes to repetitive tasks. But not only. Sometimes it’s hard for you to get much done only because you struggle to focus. It might be because you overhear your co-workers’ conversations or other distracting background noises or just because your mind starts to wander and you can’t give your full attention to what you’re doing. Even though you know the source of your problems with concentration, you can’t really do anything about it. That’s the moment when you should put your headphones on and forget about the outside world – music will help you focus and stay on your task, ignoring all distractions.
But isn’t music itself also a background noise and therefore a distraction? Well, not if you choose the right music.
If you need to stay focused – surprise, surprise – playing rock & roll will probably not help you. As obvious as it may sound, remember that songs of artists you listen to outside work might not be the ones that help you focus and improve your productivity. So what does?
Sounds of nature not only help you stay focused but can also reduce the level of stress, spark creativity and give you an overall sense of well-being. The subtle sound of a forest or a stream flowing down a hill slope gives the mind a soothing sensation and positively affects the cognitive abilities, which, according to research, helps you get more done.
The theory about the influence of classical music on the development and activity of the human brain has been around for a long time and has even earned a name for itself – “the Mozart Effect”. Apparently, classical music helps do certain kinds of mental tasks and retain more information while studying. It’s a frequent choice of students to listen to while studying for exams, so it’s definitely worth giving a try – even if it turns out not to be your kind of productivity booster, at least you’ll make up on the classical pieces everyone should know. :)
What many people find distracting about listening to music while working is the lyrics, so if this is the case for you (of course, it doesn’t have to be), you should try listening to instrumental music. Either one of the above options or any other instrumental music – it will give your brain a rhythm to follow and will therefore help focus and forget about any external distractions.
Remember the time when you were trying to deal with a particularly demanding task and all you could focus your attention on were the sounds coming from the office kitchen or your colleagues talking about their weekend plans, which made you even more irritated? If office sounds or the background chatter of your colleagues are what you find particularly distracting, try listening to white noise playlists. White noise creates a constant ambient sound, which helps block out any other background sounds that keep taking your attention away from your task.
Music isn’t going to boost your productivity if you don’t enjoy it, so make sure you find something you like and something that makes you motivated. If lyrics and more energetic sounds aren’t distracting for you, don’t force yourself to listen to instrumental music. We’re all very different and what works for one person doesn’t have to work for another.
The tasks you work on during a day may also differ – first you do something that requires deep focus and then you switch to a repetitive task that is not so demanding for your brain. Depending on the task you’re doing, different types of music can help you boost your productivity. Take it into account when creating your work playlist and add something for every situation. Or maybe create a few alternative playlists? Also, remember to adjust the volume – with most tasks, music will be distracting if it’s too loud, so make sure it only plays in the background so that it helps instead of interrupting you.
It’s been proven by research that familiar music is better for focus. Listening to something you’re not familiar with might take your attention away and make you focus on the new sounds, which is not what you want to achieve. That’s why it’s better to leave getting to know new songs and artists for when you’re off work and prepare a playlist (or more) with songs you know and which will help rather than distract you.
Hopefully, the fact that you should be taking breaks at regular intervals is not a surprise for you. No matter how busy your day is, short breaks from time to time are an absolute must – your productivity won’t increase if you force yourself to sit at your desk for 8 hours straight or longer. You just can’t stay productive without breaks. So when you do take them, make sure you stop thinking about work let your brain unwind, for example by listening to music. The advantages are twofold. Firstly, listening to music during breaks makes you feel better and more relaxed and, according to research, it can also increase your productivity. Can it get any better?