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Music for Productivity: Match Your Tracks With Your Tasks


Look around any office today and you will squint to find more than a handful of people without their ears plugged into headphones. With that said, most people would agree that music helps them work better throughout the day. But did you know that you can legitimately match your music tracks with your tasks, for optimal productivity?


(Photo Credit: Cory Blaz/Unsplash)

Humans seem to be naturally addicted to music. Think about it – when you’re sad, do you turn to music to help console you? When you’re happy and celebrating, isn’t it great to hear your favorite tune as you rock out? And when you want to get into beast mode, don’t you always turn on your favorite get-pumped-up song?

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A small study done on 47 undergraduate students tested the 4th movement of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 (an excitative piece) and Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 (sedative piece). The excitative piece aroused feelings of vigor and tension while the sedative piece eased tension. The study also concluded that favorite music, regardless of music type, lowered subjective tension, but the results indicated that the dominant factor affecting emotional response was music type. As we can see, music plays a real, moving role in our lives.

So, with all this scientific mumbo-jumbo, why not use music to our advantage? Beyond listening to music you simply like, you can strategically pair specific music types with specific tasks, while potentially increasing your productivity. Here’s a few tips to help get you started.

Simple Tasks – Choose Music You’ve Heard Before.
For menial, repetitive, boring tasks, it’s best to listen to music you’ve heard before. Filling out that 500-row excel sheet? Throw on some classics you won’t ever forget. Think “Stairway to Heaven” or any other classic rock songs you know by heart. 

Learning Something New – Lyric Free Tunes
When it comes to learning a new task or picking up a skill that requires great complexity, it’s best to have music without lyrics – a.k.a. “low information load music.” Lyrics can be distracting and songs without them will allow you to concentrate better.

Doing Work You Love – Rock Out!
Did you know that the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that surgeons worked more accurately when music they liked was playing in the background? If it can work for surgeons, it can work for you too. So go ahead, blast that Taylor Swift song we know you love. Your embarrassing secret is safe with us.

Getting Creative – Songs Paced at 50-80 Beats Per Minute
OK – this one is a little more specific than the others, but there is a super scientific reason it is the way it is. Spotify, in conjunction with Dr. Emma Gray of the British CBT and Counseling Service, conducted research on the benefits of certain music. The research found that musical tempo, in the very specific range of 50-80 beats per minute, can help induce the alpha state in your brain. The alpha state is when your brain becomes calm, alert, and concentration is heightened – a.k.a. the optimal mental setup for creative problem-solving.

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Is there certain music you like to work to? Comment below or join the discussion on Twitter!

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