Can productivity music help you concentrate? Can you focus while listening to music?
Let’s find out.
If you’re looking for ways to improve your focus, music may help. However, finding the best music for work productivity isn’t a straightforward task. There’s so much available and so many different genres – where should you start?
What’s more, not all music is equal – some “productivity music playlists” are pretty distracting. So, what’s the best music for productivity?
This article summarizes what science says about music productivity and provides eight curated Spotify playlists to help boost your concentration. Whether you’re into Mozart, Pink Floyd, or Mary J. Blige, we’re confident there’s something on this list that’ll work for you.
(Note: Some of these productivity playlists contain tracks with explicit language.)
- Does Listening to Music Help You Concentrate?
- Best Work Music: 8 of The Best Productivity Music Playlists
- Summary: Productivity Music to Help You Concentrate
- Want to Learn More?
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Does Listening to Music Help You Concentrate?
It depends. Music in the workplace can improve productivity, but its effect depends on the music and the type of work.
For example, The Journal of the American Medical Association discovered that surgeon’s accuracy and efficiency improved when they operated while music played. Additionally, a study published in Applied Ergonomics found that background music motivated workers to perform repetitive tasks more efficiently..
On the other hand, several studies have shown that popular music – particularly music with lyrics – interferes with information processing and reading comprehension.
In short, productivity music works – but only if you choose the right music for your situation. So, what should you listen to?
Best Work Music: 8 of The Best Productivity Music Playlists
If you’re looking for the best music for concentration and focus while working, here are eight curated playlists chosen with specific studies in mind.
1. Instrumental Music
Trying to concentrate when people are talking can be incredibly challenging. And as it turns out, music with lyrics has a similar effect on our productivity.
In one study, participants completed a verbal test in silence and when listening to music. The study found that “overall performance for all participants was significantly better in silence, supporting the idea that lyrics interfere with the processing of verbal information in the task.”
Another study found that “nearly three-quarters of the students (74.5%) did less well on a reading comprehension test while listening to lyrical music.” And other studies recommend music without lyrics – or songs with boring or familiar words!
All in all, songs with lyrics can be distracting.
So, when you need to write, talk, or listen intently, choose instrumental productivity music to help you concentrate.
If you’re not sure what to listen to, check out this popular “Instrumental Study” playlist:
2. Classical Music
A music productivity study found that listening to Mozart for even a short time each day could boost something called “abstract reasoning ability.”
This is called the “Mozart Effect.”
Here’s what happened: Researchers took 36 students and divided them into three groups. Group one listened to Mozart, group two listened to a relaxation audio track, and group three sat in silence. After ten minutes, all the students took the same test.
The results? The group that listened to Mozart averaged an eight-to-nine point increase in IQ compared to the other two groups.
Still, the “Mozart Effect” has been contested many times, but other studies have found similar results. For example, another study found that playing quiet classical music during recorded lectures improved learning.
So, here’s a “Classical Focus” productivity playlist to help you concentrate:
3. Video Game Soundtracks
Once an afterthought for game makers, video game music is now big business.
In fact, video game music producer Tommy Tallarico believes that game makers spend anywhere between $50,000 to $1 million on a game’s music.
Here’s the thing: Video games require a lot of focus.
Gamers need rapid-fire reactions, quick-thinking, and intense concentration if they’re to complete a game. As a result, it makes sense that video game music is designed with focus in mind.
What’s more, there’s evidence to support game musics’ positive effect on performance.
For example, one study explored gamers’ performance when playing “Twilight Princess (Legend of Zelda).” The researchers found that performance was weakest when playing without sound. Plus, “the highest scores were earned when playing with music that was unrelated to players’ actions or events unfolding on screen.”
In other words, games could be a great source of productivity music to concentrate and work.
Want to give it a go? Check out this productivity playlist called “Total Dedication.”
4. Pump Up Songs
Everyone loves a good pump up song – but should you listen to this music in the workplace?
“Athletes often arrive at the stadium wearing earphones,” said Professor Derek Rucker. “And these athletes often emerge from the locker room to the sound of music pounding. It is as if the music is offering a psychological coat of armor for the competition about to occur.”
Rucker and three of his colleagues wanted to know: “Could listening to the right kind of music – even in the background – make us feel more powerful and in control?”
So, they set up a study to find out.
In the study, participants listened to several songs and were asked to score how powerful, determined, and dominant each song made them feel.
Here’s the fun part: There were three clear power song winners: Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” 50 Cent’s “In Da Club,” and 2 Unlimited’s “Get Ready for This.” In subsequent studies, the researchers found these “power songs” made people feel more confident and empowered.
All in all, pump up songs probably aren’t great for concentration while working.
However, the next time you want to feel empowered and confident – perhaps before an interview, negotiation, or pitch – listen to this “Walk Like a Badass” playlist to get in the mood.
5. Feel-Good Favorites
If you’re struggling to stop procrastinating or you’re just feeling down in the dumps, an injection of feel-good songs could help.
Research has found that participants who listened to music before and during a programming task experienced less anxiety and performed better than those who didn’t listen to music. In another study, surgeons’ accuracy and efficiency were rated best when they listened to their chosen music.
In other words, music can help us relax and perform better.
Science has proven that our favorite songs activate the pleasure systems in our brains – the same systems that are activated by delicious food and other physical pleasures.
All in all, your favorite feel-good music could help you perform better.
Although everyone’s into different feel-good favs, here’s a popular “Feel Good Friday” playlist to get you started:
6. Natural Sounds
According to one study, listening to natural sounds can enhance cognitive functioning, improve concentration, and even increase satisfaction.
Even Google Home has added ambient nature sounds to help users relax and focus.
So, what natural sounds should you listen to? Well, you could try the sound of waves crashing, birds singing, wind howling, waterfalls pouring, or streams trickling – just maybe not all at the same time.
Unlike most productivity music playlists, these natural sounds can block out distractions without becoming distractions themselves.
Give it a go with this “Nature Noise” productivity music playlist:
7. Binaural Beats
First thing’s first: What are binaural beats?
The term “binaural beats” refers to music with slightly different sound waves playing in each ear. This slight difference in the sound waves is designed to alter your brainwaves.
The idea is to create music that can speed up your brain waves to help you focus more or slow your brain waves down to help you meditate, relax, or sleep. It’s the ultimate relaxing music to work and concentrate.
Plus, there’s evidence to suggest that binaural beats can help you improve productivity. One study found that binaural beats can reduce anxiety and “increase quality of life.”
That said, it’s worth noting that binaural beats have boomed into a craze in the last few years, with some warning against the trend. Professor Joydeep Bhattacharya states, “A lot of big claims have been made without adequate verification.”
So, are binaural beats hype or are they great productivity music for focus and concentration at work? Check out the productivity music playlist below and decide for yourself.
8. White Noise
People talking, office sounds, traffic, children, or noisy neighbors can prevent us from doing our best work.
One study found that “when carrying out intellectual activities involving memory or arithmetic tasks, it is a common experience for noise to cause an increased psychological impression of ‘annoyance,’ leading to a decline in performance.”
So, if the productivity music playlists above don’t work for you, give white noise a go.
There’s plenty of white noise playlists online created to help people fall asleep and focus – some are even designed to help manage tinnitus!
Here’s a popular white noise productivity music playlist to try.
Summary: Productivity Music to Help You Concentrate
If you want to improve your focus, there’s plenty of productivity music out there.
Remember, if you’re not a fan of the productivity playlists we’ve featured, here are some guidelines to help you find the best music to concentrate and work:
- Lyrics can be distracting, so choose instrumental music for focus and productivity
- Test the “Mozart Effect” and listen to classical music to help you concentrate
- Try listening to the soundtracks of your favorite video games
- Listen to your favorite pump up songs before you start working
- Turn to your feel-good favorites for music that’s likely to increase productivity
- Listen to natural sounds to help you relax and improve your focus
- Try different binaural beats tracks to see if they work for you
- Consider listening to white noise to help block out distracting sounds
Bottom line, music can profoundly influence our behavior, mood, and cognitive abilities. So, have fun exploring what works best for you!
What’s your favorite productivity music for working fast? Let us know in the comments below!
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