Does Music Make Us More Productive? Pt. 1

This week, we’re tackling a new question.

You glance at the clock; it’s 4:30 PM. Only half an hour to go, but you have emails to read, copies to make, and no motivation. So you pop in some earbuds, and two minutes into your favorite album, those tasks don’t seem quite so daunting anymore.

Although it varies from person to person, many have found that listening to music helps boost productivity, whether you are hitting the weight room or sitting at work. Is there really a relationship between music and productivity? If so, how does it all work?

Teresa Leisuk, of the University of Miami’s music therapy program, has conducted extensive researchon the effects of music in the workplace. Experts note that while some newcomers actually finding music distracting, individuals who already proficient in their given job or task often completed their work faster under the influence of music.

A study done by Fink, Vossel, and Geng (2013) differentiates two sorts of attention systems in our brains – one in which we intentionally focus on a given task, and one which allows us to subconsciously search our peripherals for any important stimulations (e.g, something that could frighten or hurt us). As we all know, there are times at work – or elsewhere – when our full attention is imperative, yet something keeps distracting us. Perhaps it’s a conversation down the hall, someone tapping their shoes in another cubicle, or a

classmate clicking their pen; whatever it is, if the task at hand is dull or monotonous, our subconscious stream of attention won’t leave the external stimulation alone, making any sort of focus nearly impossible. Music, on the other hand, allows your brain a break from the pesky noise and keeps your subconscious system busy while you complete your task.

Another factor that can result in increased productivity, related to our post on Mood and Music, is the pure motivation that comes from listening to music that you enjoy. Dr. Lesiuk asserts that while music in general often has positive effects in terms of productivity and creativity, the type of music matters; Specifically, listening to music that you like will release dopamine and thus boost your mood (and indirectly your productivity), but listening to music that you don’t like has the opposite effect, proving to be a distraction.

So find some tunes you enjoy and get your work done before next week’s post on how to pick the songs that will make you more productive!

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