The power of music is undeniable. Think of film soundtracks, that song that kick-starts your workout, a live concert, that dope party remix, and all those playlists to help you get things done. Precisely because of music’s power to – quite literally – set the frequency, many people (including the StartupMe team) are meticulous about the music that they listen to while working.
But how does music influence productivity or creativity? Does it matter what you do and what type of music you listen to? In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the effects of music and offer you some playlists to get you going.
The power of music
Although many people have already experienced the power of music for themselves, the effects have also been studied in universities. A study by the University of Windsor, for example, found that “music listening” leads to “positive feelings”, which in turn increase performance on tasks requiring creative output.” Moreover, music “increases one’s ability to relate and integrate divergent material” and makes listeners “more energized and more alert,” which translates into improved pacing of “work tasks and” the “workday.”
Also a 2013 study on “The Neurochemistry of Music” compared the effects of anti-anxiety medication and music on patients lined up for surgery. The results showed that music proved to be more effective in decreasing stress levels of patients than anti-anxiety medication was!
Both these studies explain that their research is not entirely new, but that they primarily confirm older theories and subjective reports revolving around the power of music.
How do musical lyrics influence productivity?
Have you ever caught yourself writing down the words that someone is saying to you, instead of the ones you intended to write down? If so, then you’re certainly not the only one! This 2012 study demonstrates that the more intelligible speech around us is, the more detrimental to our cognitive tasks. As you might expect, mathematical tasks are less influenced than language-related tasks, for it is particularly hard for our brains to separate what we hear from what we read or write down.
Unsurprisingly, the same goes for lyrics in music. But luckily there is plenty of music without lyrics – instrumental, ambient, etc. – that does not have this effect. Regardless of a 2014 cognitive psychology study demonstrating that even music without lyrics takes up space of our cognitive capacities, listening to instrumental music can still improve productivity in many cases.
For example, music works excellent when you are doing administrative tasks, simple manual tasks, tasks that don’t involve learning or processing new information, and of course tasks that are otherwise too boring to ever get through. Moreover, music can get you through the working day when you’re feeling tired or depressed, and it can help to drown out noises that are distracting.
What is the best music genre to work with?
Well, that really depends on what the task at hand is. Music sets the tone, and different parts of your work may require different tones of approach. For writing a blog article such as this, for example, I prefer something that is between chill and peaceful, but still upbeat and active. Playlists such as To-Do List, Lowkey Tech, or Anima 38 contain the perfectly uplifting music for a task like this.
At other times, when I need deep concentration during a research-based task, or when I’m feeling a little too amped up or anxious, a playlist such as Peaceful Indie Ambient or Peaceful Guitar provide for the perfect company. Conversely, is it time to get sh*t done, and a lot of it? Then I’ll switch the frequency to the Deep House – Work Jamsplaylist. And is carefree the exact description of the tone of voice or mood that I’m looking for? Then the “beachy, acoustic tunes for lazy summer days” of the Breezy Acoustic playlist are just what I need.
Choosing the music to work with
So, before you play your music, take a moment to analyze the type of task or activity that you’re going to do. Are you in a quiet environment, and is it time to learn new information or tackle a complex problem? Then silence can be your friend. Remember, you can still listen to your favorite song beforehand so that you can be sure that you’ll dive into the task with energized enthusiasm.
However, do you want to set the mood, tune into a certain frequency, or happily enjoy crushing it together? Then treat yourself to a playlist, artist or album that matches exactly that tone. Your mind and body will automatically pick up on the frequency, and your productive output will synchronize accordingly!