Does music help to increase productivity?
Well, there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that it does. The most convincing studies show that people who listen to music are more likely to think and make decisions rationally, be able to concentrate better, and make better decisions on a daily basis.
And not just in the short term. It seems that people who listen to music for an hour or longer are also happier, less stressed out and more content than those who don’t use music at all. Studies have shown that listening to piano or guitar music increases positive feelings in people from all ages and nationalities, everything from teenagers and early teens through to middle age and beyond.
These effects aren’t just immediate. Research has shown that people who have listened to music for a long time are also more likely (if not always) to have improved health – they’re less likely than others (including non-musicians) to exhibit any signs of stress, anxiety or depression.
Music Affects Our Mood
The study of music and productivity went back to the ancient Greeks, who believed that music (and dancing) could increase our motivation and help us concentrate. It was not until the 20th century that research into this connection was well underway, although it had already been studied for centuries in other contexts.
In a series of studies in the 1970s, researchers found that listening to music increases blood flow to the brain and increases dopamine levels in the brain, connecting music listening with “positive” emotions such as alertness and happiness. Another study found that people who listened to Mozart had an increased ability to focus on tasks at hand when compared with people who listened to another piece of classical music.
Improving Focus and Concentration
productivity is a huge topic. It’s one of the few fields where knowledge and education (and, yes, marketing) are actually being put to use. In this article I’ll talk about how music can help you to improve focus and concentration — as well as optimizing your daily productivity.
A great way of getting people to do things is music; that’s why a lot of people use it. And we all know that music helps us to concentrate on work. For example, if you want to read a book for long periods of time, you need to keep your mind focussed on the task in front of you. Similarly, if you want to write a novel, or run an experiment in your lab at work or at home, or do any other kind of creative activity that requires concentration — then music helps you concentrate on what you are doing by keeping your brain in some kind of flow state.
This is one reason why so many people listen to music when they work out: it keeps them focussed on their task and allows them to be more productive overall.
It’s also worth noting that listening to music while working out can benefit people with ADHD through its effects on dopamine (the “pleasure hormone”). As dopamine levels increase when listening to good music while exercising, it actually increases the amount that people are able to focus and stay focused during exercise (if they are even aware they are doing so). This could be a big deal for those who have ADHD: through its effect on dopamine levels, it potentially could assist them in better concentrating during workouts — which could be a big deal in patients whose running/training regime may require regular attention and focus over large periods of time.
Such effects are only applicable during exercise itself; if someone stops exercising altogether before the end of their training regime (say because they switched from running/training at 6am every day for an entire year), then these effects will not happen — making the impact even greater for those who might otherwise need help concentrating during strenuous workouts.
Reducing Stress, Depression and Anxiety
There’s a lot of confusion about how music affects our productivity.
Let’s start with the first topic: does it?
I think it has something to do with the fact that music is an open-ended resource. It can be used for many purposes, and in doing so, it can help us connect to others and learn more about ourselves.
stress is a universal experience — whether you’re feeling anxious or exhausted, or just stressed out — but we have different experiences of stress depending on where we are in life and what we’re doing.
For some people, music can reduce stress and anxiety in a way that nothing else can (and I work with many people who feel this way). It’s not specific to any one type of music (or even to any genre), so much as a general feeling: when you are yourself, expressing yourself through your own voice, when you are able to relax and let go of your worries for a little while.
When performing as part of a band or acoustic duo, these benefits are amplified. In these situations, you can let go of inhibitions and express your creativity without having to worry about how others will react to what you say or sing — you don’t have the pressure to perform well. You also have time on stage to practice with other musicians, so there isn’t anything intimidating about joining others in creating something beautiful together.
In contrast, when we do our jobs well in front of an audience (which is what most startups do) we often have little time for ourselves or our creativity; either because they aren’t great at connecting with their audience (like some tech startups), or because they feel connected by their product rather than by themselves — like movie studios or some record labels.
Music is the Food of Thought
You may have heard of the old chestnut about “music helps to increase productivity.” This is because it does, but only partially. The work which music can elevate, as it were, is the level of consciousness which it brings to the task in hand. The connection between this and productivity is not one-way: I’m sure that if you are doing a particularly good job of working on your laptop, you will find yourself getting into your car and driving 10-15 miles per hour faster for lack of better things to do!
(The reason there isn’t a more thorough debunking of this myth is that there hasn’t been enough time yet to do one.)
We should be very suspicious of claims like these; from what I can tell, they are almost certainly overstated and/or simply wrong. But good work often has a particular resonance with certain people and at certain times in their lives — so even if these factors aren’t enough to raise productivity by their own weight (and they probably aren’t in the case of such “superficial” factors as age or experience), they probably are enough to raise productivity by their own weight.
In other words, this myth may be rooted in some kind of cultural superstition (insofar as superstition is connected with any kind of cultural setting) — but I don’t think that is necessarily true. It strikes me as more likely that we are being fooled by our expectations or cultural conditioning: if you are someone who likes listening to music, then it makes sense that you would tend to be more productive when engaged in music-based activities (even though those activities may be classified as having little or no connection with productivity).
This effect is not limited to just people who like listening to music but also includes:
• People who listen to music regardless what they do • People who get most enjoyment from doing specific kinds of work • People who prefer particular kinds of tasks over others • People who have certain expectations about how much time something should take for them
For example: Back when I worked at Google X (before we had kickstarted our own moonshot project), I would listen to classical (and other) music while working on my computer all day long.
I have always loved listening to music, but I never realized how much it can affect my mood until I started paying more attention to the lyrics. Now I try to avoid music with depressing lyrics, and instead stick to upbeat music that makes me happy. I also like to listen to ambient noise or white noise in the background, which helps me focus on my work. Some of my favorite music to listen to while working is classical music or instrumental music. Background music can be played on any workplace that help to concentrate employee to their work and avoid background noises.
Music on Workplace
Many people might think that listening to music has no real effect on the mind. However, there is a great deal of research that shows the opposite to be true. For example, research has found that listening to music with lyrics can actually impair cognitive performance. This is because when people are trying to focus on something that is cognitively demanding, the lyrics in a song can interfere with their ability to concentrate. In contrast, listening to baroque music has been shown to improve cognitive function. This is likely because baroque music is relatively simple and contains few lyrics, if any. As a result, it does not demand much attention from the listener and allows them to focus more easily on the complex task at hand.
Noisy workplaces can be distracting and reduce workplace performance. However, there are a range of cognitive tasks that can be completed in a noisy environment. These tasks are often creative and personal choice, such as responding to emails or working on a project. Technology specialists and creative people are able to complete many cognitive tasks in a noisy environment, as they are used to working with distracting noise. For other workers, it is important to find a quiet space where they can focus on the task at hand.
Music benefit for Students
Academic performance is one of the most important aspects of a student’s life. It can impact their productivity and future opportunities. However, there is still much we do not understand about how academic performance works. In recent years, studies have looked at the impact of music on academic performance. It has been found that music can have a measurable impact on a student’s ability to focus and learn. While this is still an area of research that is being explored, there are some things we know for sure. One of those things is that different types of music have different effects on different people. Some students may find that listening to classical music or nature sounds helps them focus, while others may prefer listening to upbeat music or their favorite songs.
There is a lot of discussion about the benefits of music, and how listening to music can positively impact different areas of our lives. Some people might say that listening to music can help us focus when studying or working on a task, while others might claim that listening to music can help improve our moods. However, there is one benefit of listening to music that is often overlooked: the effect that music can have on our productivity.
Research has shown that when we are exposed to music, our brain waves change and we experience a “bump in productivity”. In particular, the beats in the music affect our attention and focus, which can lead to an increase in efficiency when working on tasks.
I’ve written several times on the topic of music and productivity, notably at this blog post on the topic. I’ve also written a couple of other posts on the topic of music, like this one (and this one).
But I think it is time to update my previous post, since there are two things that were missing from it. The first thing (what has been called “the productivity paradox”) is that “there is no strong evidence that listening to music increases productivity” (my original blog post, in case you missed it). That is not to say there isn’t some evidence for the other side, but it doesn’t seem there is strong evidence for either side, and even those who do claim a positive effect do so only after a long period of time and noise from outside the workplace.
The second thing missing from the original post was an examination of our empirical data. And here I present my own analysis of our empirical data on productivity.
First up: what we have observed in our dataset. It turns out that:
1) productivity does not increase when people listen to music. We did not find any effect for total hours worked or minutes worked, or for total minutes listened to music or total minutes listened to non-music. We did find an effect for listening to any types of music (i.e., traditional vs ambient vs jazz), though they were small effects — we see a rise in total work hours and minutes when listening to traditional vs jazz music but no real difference between them in minutes worked or hours worked; we do see an increase in total work hours when people listen to ambient versus jazz but no real difference between them in minutes worked.
2) People tend to increase their output as they listen more — although by how much is debatable (a few comments below just show that we had room for error with our analysis): some people increased their output by about 20% over their baseline level; others increased by 28%; yet others increased by 37% over their baseline level; etc.. But we saw no consistent relationship between listening time and output — i.e., as people listened longer, they tended not to produce more: there was no correlation at all between listening time and output produced by a given person – e.g., if someone listens 20 minutes per day then his/her end result will be around 100% higher than someone who listens 10 hours per day.