I am someone that absolutely cannot work or be creative in any capacity without listening to music through headphones. For many years, my theory was that music helped entertain the ADD riddled part of my brain, therefore keeping it from drifting off to puppies or football or cheese quite as often. In that way, music actually made me more productive. That’s the way I FELT, but I decided to actually look into it. Here’s what I found.
1. It can lead to better productivity, especially if you work in an open environment.
Ya know, like we do. I know my productivity would plummet if I heard every little conversation going on around the office. Music on headphones helps you block the distractions. Studies reported that a majority of people who listen to headphones felt more focused, and it took them less time to complete tasks.
2. It can put you in a relaxed, more positive mood.
One study showed that listening to your favorite type of music, whatever that is, helps lower your perception of tension. You don’t feel as much stress when you listen to music you like, according to nervous system activity.
3. And that mood is good for creativity.
As you know from my last techno camp, a relaxed state is much more conducive for creativity and problem solving. Researchers noted that positive change in mood correlated with increased curiosity — an excellent thing to have when doing creative work.
4. Not automatic benefits for everyone
For those people who don’t usually listen to music while working, it takes a bit of time for them to get used to it and reap the rewards. At the same time, once you’re used to having “work music,” your productivity and work quality are diminished when the music is taken away.
5. Not good for every job
One article mentioned air traffic controllers as not good candidates. I agree with that.
6. More beneficial if you’re moderately experienced
Makes sense right? If you’re a newbie at your job, 100% of your focus probably needs to be on the task at hand. If you’re experienced and more of the job comes as second nature, blaring death metal may not bother you.
7. Certain kinds of music tested better than others
Semi-predictably, classical and more ambient musical styles tested better than others. But as said before, the music YOU like best is probably best.
8. Hey it works for surgeons
From Time magazine: “A number of studies have found, for example, that surgeons often listen to music in the operating room and that they work more effectively when they do. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that surgeons carrying out a task in the laboratory worked more accurately when music that they liked was playing. (Music that they didn’t like was second best, and no music was least helpful of all.”
9. Solutions for people like my wife
She can’t focus with music playing on headphones unless she’s in the midst of a dry, menial task. For people like her that work in a busy, open workplace, there are apps that produce colored noise to help drown out the surroundings. Another program mixes a jumble of nature sound effects, office sounds, and ambient music to create a wall of noise that helps “mask” the noise from a room without being distracting.
10. Bottom line
If you’re a relative expert at what you do, need to be halfway creative, and enjoy listening to music, the company should probably buy you some $500 noise-canceling headphones, cause you’ll be more focused, productive, and happy when using them.