There you go again sitting at your desk with an open browser staring at your to-do list and thinking about everything you need to get done with the little time you have and you don’t feel like doing any of it.
When you’re faced with this lack of motivation, you start to experiment with ways to get through the day without being distracted. You try sitting in quiet conference rooms, taking a walk around the block to clear your head, and downing cup after cup of coffee. However, nothing seems to work and you need to fix this, stat!
So, you plug in your headphones and put on your all-time favorite song, Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. Then, without realizing that you’ve made it through the entire album, you have accomplished your goal of productivity. You’re in the zone and it’s magical! How did this happen though?
Neuromusicology is the study of how real-time processes in the human brain while perceiving and producing sound. Research topics in Neuromusicology range from acoustic processing to listening to melodies and musical performances.
Today, research in Neuromusicology suggests that music affects our brain in ways that make us more productive. Music enters our inner ear and engages in the various arenas of our brain that are used for several cognitive functions. Teresa Lesiuk, the author of the case study “The Effect of Music Listening on Work Performance”, found in 2005 that when software developers listened to music at work, they experienced positive moods and an increase in productivity.
Lesiuk discovered that music is a universal language that shares the cultural knowledge of emotions. What she means by this is, no matter what genre you listen to, your brain will find a way to relate to the sounds being played, whether this is through past or current experiences with similar tones or though values and beliefs that closely align with your own stated in lyrics. Music stimulates our brains by playing on our emotions, which ultimately leads to productivity because when our brains are stimulated, they release the neurotransmitter dopamine, which reduces stress and anxiety.
However, just because the music itself can be a reducer of stress and anxiety this doesn’t necessarily mean that all music is equal in terms of how it affects your levels of productivity. Studies on background music have shown that music with lyrics can reduce our mental performance at work, while instrumental music can boost your productivity.
When learning new information, listening to classical music is preferable over music with lyrics because it is less distracting. However, if we need motivation at work when performing a repetitive task that we’re familiar with, listening to music with lyrics can lead to positive emotions and productivity—as it can make your daily tasks more interesting. However, there are other times in the day when we need to ditch our headphones all together and focus on the task at hand.
Like most things, listening to music at work is largely about timing, moderation, and the ways you’re using it. It can be a powerful tool that assists you in accomplishing your goals or it can be an instrument (pun intended) to detract you from efficiency. Use it wisely!