Who doesn't love the power of music?! Some music gets us up and dancing. Some makes us cry or laugh. And some soothes us.
But did you ever think about possibly listening to music while you work? What about when you have a complex problem you need to work through? Or getting through a project milestone?
So for anyone who knows me well, knows that I have been studying and playing classical piano since I was 5 years old (don't ask me how old I am now - it's not polite to as a lady her age!). In addition, most of you know that I have a strong engineering and operations background. Whoa, now wait a minute...aren't those two pretty much exact opposite of each other? Playing piano is on the creative spectrum whereas engineering isn't?!
Yes. But what most people don't know is how methodical classical music is. It has rules that must be followed, and most important, playing any kind of instrument requires extreme discipline and TONS of consistency (like I practiced piano for 60 minutes every day for years to get where I am today).
Here's a recent stat from Spotify: 90% of workers perform better and 88% produce more accurate work when using music as a productivity tool.
So how does music, specifically, affect productivity, especially in the workplace?
1. Music changes how we think
The noise in our workplace is undoubtedly a huge factor in our productivity. Numerous studies have highlighted the impact open office environments have on our productivity, and other research has shown that the background noise of a coffee shop can also change how we think.
Even retailers have used music to manipulate consumers, with fast food restaurants using faster paced music, whereas classier restaurants will have classical playing in the background. Does classical music have a similar impact on our work?
Many of us have heard of the Mozart Effect - dramatic accounts of how doctors, business professionals, musicians, and others use music to deal with everything from anxiety to cancer, high blood pressure, chronic pain, dyslexia, even mental illnesses.
2. Classical music changes our ability to solve problems
Various studies have confirmed that listening to classical music enhances one's ability to manipulate shapes and solve spatial puzzles and complex problems.
The absence of words in the music may be one factor, as songs that contain lyrics have been found to be a distraction when you’re trying to focus. And classical music is known to have a calming effect, helping people to reduce stress. This genre of music has also been found to help students perform 12% better on their exams (parents - play classical music at home after school!).
3. Nature sounds/music boosts our mood and ability to focus
Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute discovered that natural sounds boost moods and focus. The study found employees were more productive and had more positive feelings when nature sounds were playing in the background while they worked.
This totally makes sense as the nature sounds mask distracting noises such as people talking or typing. The researchers also found that workers not only performed BETTER on tasks, but relaxing nature sounds had a restorative effect on cognitive abilities.
So is it classical or nature music that you should be listening to in order to improve your productivity? Well, different tasks are affected by different music. A variety of tasks are positively impacted, as long as they are controlled by the prefrontal cortex of the brain. Such tasks include planning, organizing, paying attention, controlling impulses and the working memory – the ability to hold recently learned information.
Think of exercise - this is one task that is positively impacted by the presence of upbeat music. Primarily, this is because the tempo can motivate you to keep moving to the beat, and it can even act as a positive distraction.
Overall, the presence of music DOES positively impact productivity, but it depends on various factors. So, what are your preferences? What task are you performing? Is the music the right beat, and how much attention do the lyrics demand? This may seem like a difficult combination of factors to perfect, but once you create the right playlist to fit your preferences, you might start to notice a shift in your productivity and efficiency in the workplace.
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