Music and its relationship with organizing and productivity

There have been many studies over the years about the effect of music on productivity in industry. One study has suggested that music increases productivity when workers are engaged in repetitive tasks that may not be intellectually stimulating. The findings of another study show that music has a positive effect on a person’s emotional state and can help with self-motivation.

Dr. Lesiuk of the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami carried out a study in which workers could listen to whatever music they liked for as long as they wanted. She found that those people who were reasonably skilled at their jobs realized the most benefit. Workers who were identified as experts saw almost no effect on their productivity and some novices found that listening to music was distracting and did not help them accomplish the tasks (which makes sense as they were acquiring new skills).

In short, music will likely help you and/or your employees be organized and productive. If you have a project you have been putting off for some time or if your task involves repetitive work (such as sorting through clothing), turn up the volume and listen to your favourite music to get you motivated.

However, if your task involves complex decision-making (such as writing a research proposal), you may want to keep your surroundings quiet, especially if the task is something you don’t usually do.

Personally, I find when I listen to dance music with a fast beat (anything from the Big Band Era to Disco to Electronica) my house gets organized and cleaned much faster. When I have a large re-organizing job such as a storage area clean out, I listen to classic rock (Led Zeppelin, Rush, Van Halen, AC/DC). If I’m working on a project that requires my full concentration such as writing or working on data analysis, I don’t listen to music at all because I end up singing to the music and getting distracted from my work.

Most of the time I work from home so I can choose the music I like, but if you share a working space, keep a set of comfortable headphones handy so as not to disturb your co-workers. At the office, always check with your manager or supervisor before you don your headphones. Some companies have policies regarding listening to music during working hours. If you are a manager, consider letting employees listen to music if you find it makes them more productive.

Do you find listening to music helps you be more or less productive? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

13 Comments for “Music and its relationship with organizing and productivity”

  1. posted by Sandra on

    When I listen to music while driving my car (when I’m alone), my speed depends on the type of music….the faster the beat, the faster I drive!!!

  2. posted by Stuart on

    The only music I can work with is instrumental (whatever the instrument). Sung lyrics are distracting.

  3. posted by Carla on

    At work, I get interrupted too often to listen to music. I would listen for 30 seconds, get asked a question, listen 2 minutes, get asked a question. I finally gave up. 🙂

  4. posted by Laetitia in Australia on

    When I was a uni student, I would study while wearing headphones. I found that if I didn’t sing along, the words to the songs would ‘bottle up’ in my brain and distract me, whereas if I let them go the path of least resistance (ear – auditory processing unit – oral processing unit – singing) I didn’t notice them. My sister did though – she suffered my out-of-tune-because-I-couldn’t-hear-myself singing. 😀

  5. posted by Karla on

    This seems to focus on music with lyrics. Now you can subscribe to services for audio without words, whether sounds (white noise, cafe, ocean, brook) or musical without lyrics. I use the free version of focusatwill.com and find it helps!

  6. posted by DebF on

    As someone who works in places where the background is often very noisy, I find that white noise playing through my headphones helps a LOT in allowing me to focus on something which requires strong concentration. You can find a lot of it on youtube.

  7. posted by skiptheBS on

    Music improves health and productivity. When my boss banned mp3 players on the job, my blood pressure went from lifelong normal to high, and after three years, it’s still excessive.

  8. posted by Ms Hanson on

    Pandora is my go-to source for any kind of music. For more focused writing efforts (and calming the hounds indoors), I came across http://www.asoftmurmur.com which has a dozen ambient sounds for background, mostly sounds of nature. Waves are my main choice.

  9. posted by Viki on

    I find that I do office work better when I have classical music WITHOUT WORDS on (unless it’s a slow harpsichord piece, just because I don’t like that). Beethoven symphonies, Mozart sonatas and Bach preludes, fugues and inventions are especially helpful . . . and there’s nothing like Carmina Burana for working fast!

  10. posted by Alice on

    Working in an open office environment, I have found the combination of noise isolating headphones and instrumental music very effective in improving my productivity. Most of my work requires “new” thinking, so instrumental music is a must – a cycle through new age, jazz, and instrumental, as well as Coffitivity. Music with lyrics is just too distracting. Once I caved and invested in the noise isolating headphones, I also discovered how much workplace chatter also distracts me (even when it’s muffled). The headphones occasionally make for an awkward situation, and I sometimes have to convince myself it’s time to use them, but what are you going to do when you have no walls or door to close? The sound isolation and mellow music really help me focus and get stuff done. Without them, I find my minds wandering along with my web browsing.

  11. posted by Jake on

    I’d like to recommend a few albums I’ve been listening to the past 6 months, which help me to actually focus on thought-intensive work. It’s especially great on an early Saturday morning, when everyone is sleeping and you want to get a little bit of work done (or even just catch up on your blogs). Ambient/Minimalist music. Some I’d recommend (these are all on Spotify) –

    Biggest name in the game would be Brian Eno..

    Brian Eno – Apollo
    Brian Eno – Music for Airports
    Brian Eno – Neroli (Thinking Music Part IV)

    …Pretty much any Brian Eno ambient work…FYI, he’s also got a lot of poppier “Talking Heads” and “David Bowie” -esque albums.

    Harold Budd – The Pavilion of Dreams
    The Dead Texan – The Dead Texan
    Brian Mcbridge – The Effective Disconnect

    That should get you started, you will find plenty to go from there. BTW, this site could definitely use more music posts! 🙂

  12. posted by Queue on

    Comments on this post = FTW. I’ve already bookmarked three sites.

  13. posted by Emily on

    I can’t do anything in complete silence, but sometimes I need non-music noise to listen to. My job requires a lot of reading and comprehension and, while most of the time I can listen to music, there are some days when I’m writing reports where I can’t listen to my coworkers or silence or any music. So I found Coffitivity, which is a looped recording of coffee shop chatter where it’s just noisy enough to drown out deafening silence, but not as distracting as music. Google it. I love it.

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