Energy and Focus Waning? Play Some Tunes, Says Science
Benny Horne for Oyster
If you’re anything like us, your average workday listening patterns can be a touch erratic. Andrew Bird in the morning, A Tribe Called Quest in the afternoon, a little Miguel when things get rough around 4 p.m., rinse, and repeat tomorrow. Or maybe, you’ll even dabble in some light podcast streaming while checking your inbox.
No matter your personal preferences, there's no question that music has become inextricable with the mission of getting sh*t done. But let's say you're struggling to focus and in desperate need of inspiration. What should you be queuing up in your Spotify playlist? Inc. recently took a closer look at the relationship between music and productivity.
Music can be an aural escape.
If the task you're chipping away at is repetitive (even boring), research suggests that music can be immensely helpful with the power to transform a rote practice into something enjoyable. Set to Rihanna's "Work," even the task of filing or shredding paper would be downright pleasant.
For some sound-sensitive workers, a noisy office environment can utterly derail productivity. For those who struggle to focus amid distracting forces, music may provide the productivity-saving haven necessary to get work done despite a bustling workplace.
Lose the lyrics, and get familiar.
According to a study in The Journal of Consumer Research, a "moderate noise level" can actually foster creativity. But the threshold between facilitating creativity and being utterly distracting is fragile.
If you’ve ever tried to sleep on a plane with people having a conversation nearby, you’ll know full well the findings of research from Applied Acoustics. According to the study, "intelligible" chatter is what makes for the most distracting environment. In other words, if you can discern the words being spoken, you may find it hard to tune out. Thus, music with lyrics may be less beneficial for fostering focus.
Meanwhile, your familiarity with the music you listen to plays a role. New music perks your ears up and encourages you to listen to it, to guess what's coming next, rather than stick to the task. So,it may be helpful to listen to music you're already familiar with when you need to get down to business.
So: What music, then?
We've already revealed the benefits of lyrics-free music. But beyond that, what's the best genre for giving your focus and energy a boost? Classical music, a go-to, is a common choice. Baroque-period tunes that fall on the softer side of the sonic spectrum are known for aiding writers, researchers, artists, and more in their work. Ambient, repetitive electronica is also another classic choice.
Then there's video game music. Though it's a bit of a curve ball, it actually makes plenty of sense.
According to Inc., "one of the most popular suggestions of all time on Reddit for 'music that helps with concentration' was the SimCity soundtrack. … [SimCity developer] Maxis designed the music to be enjoyable, but subdued enough that it wouldn't zap focus from the many things you needed to do to keep your city running."