Productivity and GTD
Does Music Help You Become More Productive?
When we are working usually there’s a background noise intermittently distracting us and hindering us from finishing the task at hand. Whenever a noise or an outside conversation distracts you, your brain suffers a small disconnection from the task at hand and you will need a few seconds—sometimes it can be minutes—to reconnect and continue the task from the point where you had stopped.
Depending on the mental effort required by the task at hand, the loss of productivity can be higher or lower. But clearly, over a week, the sum of all these small external interrupts add up to quite an amount of precious time. With that time you could have finished some things before—and enjoyed a quieter week, with everything under control—, or could have done more things during the week—thus increasing your effectiveness and personal productivity.
Sometimes, too quiet of an atmosphere does not help to get in the zone, flowing wih the job.
Many people use music to gain focus at work. I do it. You put your headphones on and goodbye to noises and conversations you don’t care about.
Some companies and managers don’t like you listening to music. They argue that your headphones will isolate you from possible important interactions with others and that a person who spends their days listening to music cannot do their job well. These are not solid arguments for me. If someone wants to interact with you, they will definitely find a way to get your attention.
Listening to melodic sounds helps to stimulate the release of dopamine in the brain, creating a feeling of well-being. There have been studies in which people who listened to music had better ideas and completed their tasks faster, due to their better mood.
However, not all music helps in equal measure. In some cases, it may even be a bigger distraction than the same ambient noise. It depends on your personal likes in music, the kind of activity you’re doing and your skill with respect to the activity.
If you’re doing something for which you don’t yet have enough skill, music can be harmful. When you’re learning how to do something, anything other than the information you’re trying to absorb becomes a distraction.
An important element to assess the usefulness of music in your productivity is how much attention the task needs. Studies show that music helps a lot when the task is boring or repetitive. However, it can be a distraction when the task requires a lot of creativity.
If the workplace is too noisy, music can definitely be a way of escape. There is some controversy with open work spaces, which are designed for greater interaction and collaboration among workers, but does not seem to help too much in terms of productivity.
A moderate level of noise, however, appears to help concentrate on the task. If your work environment is like this, it is very likely that you don’t need to resort to music to focus. However, some studies indicate that it is the good mood that your favorite music causes what increases your productivity and not the music itself.
For activities that are not repetitive but also don’t require great creativity, music without lyrics usually works best (classical music, instrumental, electronic…). Listening to words activates the part of our brain associated with language, which may distract us if the activity we are doing involves the use of language (such as writing an article, for example).
In short, if you want to be more productive and work more willingly, choose any music you like (music that you already know works best) for tasks that require little concentration, choose music without lyrics for tasks requiring an average concentration, and choose silence for tasks with a high demand in concentration and creativity.