Are you being more productive or are you just sabotaging yourself?
In the mundane daily routine of work, listening to music can sometimes be a great method to break away some of the boredom. Staring at an excel spreadsheet can be made more tolerable when you have your favorite band playing in the background. Reviewing papers can be a little more fun when your current LSS choice is doing its thing. But does the music actually make you more productive or are you just sabotaging yourself?
When music is good for you
When work is repetitive
Research suggests that when the task at hand is something repetitive, listening to music is useful. So when you’re signing routine papers and filing something, do blast the music of your choice.
When it’s noisy
Another situation where music definitely helps is when your work environment is generally a noisy one. If there are a lot of people speaking with each other or if there’s some construction being done, don’t think twice about putting on your headphones.
When it’s familiar
Unlike familiar music, new songs still have surprises in store for you. So when you’re listening to something unfamiliar, a larger part of your brain will focus on what’s coming next. But if you’re more attuned to what’s in store, there is more space to focus on what you need to get done.
When music is bad for you
When you’re learning something
Distraction in any form is a big no-go when you’re trying to pick up and retain any new information—and music is in no way an exception. Studies suggest that music demands too much of our attention, no matter how low the volume is, that we cannot properly learn or analyze anything.
When there are lyrics involved
If you’re dealing with a task that has anything to do with language (like writing a report or sending an email), lyrics are the devil. Listening to lyric-intensive songs while you’re also trying to make words out yourself is the same as having two conversations at the same time. As an alternative, experts suggest listening to classics, of course.
So what’s the deal?
More recent studies suggest that the best course of action is to listen to music some 10-15 minutes before you actually start your work—and it can pretty much be anything you want. Having your favorite tunes and actually letting yourself enjoy them can improve your mood significantly.
Listening to music has your brain releasing dopamine, which generally gives a feeling of pleasure and relaxation. Meanwhile, you might also get hit with a little serotonin, which will help you focus.
There’s no reason to chuck your earphones and favorite playlist away when the work starts to pile up. Just be smarter about when you listen and what you listen to.