Does music help you work more effectively?

And does the kind of music you listen to have an effect on productivity?

The death of the ‘office with a door’ layout and our open plan office existence means noise levels and distractions in the workplace are on the way up. Many of us use headphones and music to block out some of the distracting noises around us. Some of us find certain kinds of music help us to stay relaxed and focussed, increasing our productivity.

Different studies in this area show a range of answers to these questions. Some research conducted by the University of Windsor in Canada showed that background music provided to software developers improved the quality of their work and reduced the time taken to complete tasks. It also increased their levels of curiosity, which is great for people working in creative pursuits.

That said, a study published in the Journal of Music Therapy showed that different styles of music can have dramatically different effects, and these also differ across personality types. ‘Excitative’ music can increase feelings of vigour and tension, which is great for people who work best in slightly tense states, but not effective for those who work best when relaxed.

In my program, Make Time Work, I advise participants to use non-distracting music to create ‘cones of silence’ when they are working on a larger, more complex task that requires longer, deeper thinking. I favour music without words, as I find hearing lyrics distracts too much. Whether it’s ambient, classical, jazz or other instrumental music, something that helps filter out office noise and helps relax us into a task can have a really positive impact on effectiveness.

I would love to hear your thoughts on whether listening to music while working is helpful, and what type of music works best for you. Feel free to suggest artists or tracks so we can try out your favourites. This article was also featured on SelfGrowth.com.

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