This Is the Best Music to Listen to If You Want to Be Productive


I prefer to work in silence. I don't want any background noise, including music, loud talking, or a TV on. In the working world, I'm probably in the minority. Music can help workers relax, get excited about their work, and drown out distractions such as traffic noise or talkative office workers. (See also: How to Block Out Noise)

I've worked in newsrooms that buzz with discussions, and that can be invigorating and provides motivation to keep writing or editing. But music can work much better for some people, helping with focus and improving mental tasks and mental development. What parent hasn't played Mozart for their baby, hoping it would make them smarter, even though the theory has been overblown?

While some people argue that listening to any type of music will improve performance, there are some views that certain types of music will help with specific types of work. Here are a few. (See also: Ways to Listen to Music for Free or Cheap)

Classical Music Makes You Smarter, Sleepier, and Healthier

A 2005 study at the University of San Diego found that classical music lowers blood pressure. It can also put you to sleep, researchers have found, which can't be a good thing at work. (See also: Staying Focused at Work)

The Mozart effect may be the most-cited study on the connection between Mozart's music and improving IQ.

Karan Singh, a teacher of Indian classical music in New Jersey, says that in 30 years of playing music, he's found the best music to play at work is string music, recorded on middle octave and played softly.

"Intelligent improvisations in the compositions will trigger the best creativity in the workers," Singh says. "It will generate tolerance and calmness. I have noticed that even when I teach music to students coming from different walks of life."

"Music plays an effective role in subduing the so-called emotional balance," he says. "For optimum results, select light instrumental music since it will not have verbal words which will attract the attention of your mind particularly. Listen to the music in low volume or medium volume for optimum influence. People listening to soft music will be totally relaxed."

Feel-Good Music Gets You Going

This genre can vary widely, depending on your tastes. Jazz, soft rock, oldies, and '80s music can "provide a feel-good vibe to get you going and help you sustain you throughout the day," says June Archer, a musician and recording consultant.

Archer points to laundromats that play oldies music to help customers get their clothes washed, dried, and out the door quicker. Such songs include "The Dock of the Bay" by Otis Redding, "Up On the Roof" by The Drifters, and "Chain of Fools" by Aretha Franklin.

"The oldies provide a tone of feel-good music that stimulates a sense of urgency to feel better, and in return makes productivity go up," he says.

An Upbeat Tempo Helps You Feel ... Upbeat

Like "Car Wash" and other songs that get you to dance, music with a heavy beat may be productive for any type of work if done in short bursts. Play a few songs, get reinvigorated, and then return to work without music.

Trisha Craig, director of Music Makers, a music lesson business based in New Hampshire, says that music with a heavy beat can help more with manual labor, but it can also help office workers if played for a bit to improve their mood. (See also: Easy Ways to Improve a Bad Mood)

"Listening to music with a heavy beat, regardless of genre, will elevate the mood while taking focus away from intellectual activities," Craig says. "The same music, however, might increase production for physical work, exercise, or manual labor."

The best way to increase productivity for indoor activities is to listen to something to first elevate the mood and heart rate, then do the work in silence or with white noise to cancel out extraneous sounds.

"As energy wanes, take another music break, get recharged, then work in silence again," she says.

Ambient Music Is Still Engaging

Elevator music, music at your dentist's office, or telephone "hold" music are examples of ambient music that are played in the background that you might not notice or think about. It will keep your brain engaged without you realizing it.

A great example is "Music for Airports" by Brian Eno. I've never even noticed music playing at airports, but if this was playing, I expect it would allow me to more calmly get to my flight's gate.

There's also "chillout music" to give dance club patrons a break to relax that could help just as much with work.

Whatever type of music you prefer, it's worth listening to more at work if it helps you be more productive. Time for me to take a dance break.

Do you listen to music while you work? Sing about it in the comments below!

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