Music means different things to different people. Some see it as simple background noise. Others sink deep into the music and feel every note played and every note sung.
Regardless of the type of music listener you are, chances are you listen to it at various times throughout the day. With the prevalence of music streaming services such as Apple Music and Spotify, it’s easier than ever to listen to any song you want at any time.
It’s common to listen to a high-energy music playlist while working out, for example. Some listen to more “easy-listening” genres as they lay down to sleep at night. Can certain types of music boost your productivity, though?
I’m sure we’ve all experienced an improvement in our moods from listening to our favorite types of music. It stands to reason that a more positive mood would result in a productivity increase. But what does the science say?
Music and Effects on Productivity
Studies have been performed on music’s effects on productivity, and the effect is highly dependent on the genre of music.
Classical Music: The Mozart Effect
Researchers have believed for years that listening to classical music improves productivity and overall performance. This has been dubbed “The Mozart Effect.” While this theory has been hotly debated, it has never truly been confirmed nor debunked.
We can only theorize about the specific reasons that classical music seems to have a more positive effect on productivity than most other genres. Some believe it is the lack of lyrics, which is a logical conclusion as listening to lyrics can easily cause distraction as one finds themselves silently–or audibly–singing along.
The majority of classical music is known to be relaxing and to produce a calming feeling, which could have a positive influence on your overall mood. A good mood tends to lead to higher productivity.
Next time you’re looking for some music to listen to while you work, trying some Beethoven or Mozart could unlock your optimal productivity.
The Music of Nature
While it may not be a composed score, it’s been found that listening to nature soundscapes can help boost productivity in the workplace. Whether you prefer to hear gulls cawing over an ocean wave produced backtrack, or a nighttime forest soundscape with peepers singing away, the sounds found in nature just may be what the doctor ordered if you’re struggling with productivity.
In fact, a study in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America has found that listening to the sounds of nature can help boost your mood and your level of focus. In the study, employees were found to be more productive when they listened to nature sounds while they worked.
The good news is that natural soundscapes are easy to find. If you’ve already got a subscription through one of the many streaming music services, you can likely find a wide array of nature sounds to listen to while you work. Give it a shot and see if it works for you.
Uptempo Music May Be Best
Some researchers believe it isn’t the genre of music that matters, but rather the tempo of the music.
For instance, a cognitive behavioral scientist named Dr. Emma Gray studied the benefits of different types of music. What she found was that it wasn’t the type of music that made a difference, but rather the tempo of the music. Specifically, a tempo in the range of 50-80 beats per minute was found to allow the brain to learn and remember new facts more easily.
Why this is the case is unclear, but it stands to reason that tempo can trigger your brain to enter different states of cognition. Perhaps this is what is happening to result in the productivity boost that occurs when listening to music with higher tempos.
Whatever Music is Your Favorite
While on the surface saying “listen to whatever you like” may sound like a cop-out, the fact remains that the biggest factor that allows music to improve productivity is its ability to brighten our moods. Naturally, this means for the ultimate productivity boost, simply listening to your favorite type of music in the background should help you become more performant.
Evidence suggests that as long as the music is of a type that is favored by the listener, it can improve mood and increase cognitive performance. Ultimately, this is the key answer. While nature sounds and classical music are both generally calming and relaxing, there are people who simply do not enjoy listening to either of those options.
For those who don’t enjoy these sounds, mood will not improve and thus productivity is unlikely to see a noticeable increase. Instead, listening to our favorite types of music is sure to improve our moods which then leads to the probable elevation of cognitive function.
Key Takeaway: A Pleasant Work Environment is Crucial
The important thing to take away from all of this is that the most productive work environment and the one most likely to put you in a good mood is largely a matter of personal taste. Mood and productivity have a clear link, so setting an environment that improves your mood is the first step toward increasing productivity.
Everyone is different, though, and not everyone will have the same mood increase while listening to the same type of music. The calming tones of a Mozart composed piece may cause some to go into a euphoric state of mind, while it may make others feel bored and frustrated.
However, it’s also worth noting that everyone doesn’t give every type of music–or soundscape–a fair shake. It’s worthwhile to try out all of the types of music and sounds we mentioned to see if any of them resonate with you in the workplace. Perhaps you find that you’re a massive Bach fan, and never even realized it.
When it comes to increasing productivity, it’s worth a little experimentation until you find what works best for you.