Does Listening to Music Help or Hurt Productivity? Two Truths and a Lie

The following statements are probably safe dinner conversation. “improving productivity is something we all desire” and “listening to music is something most of us enjoy.” It’s the genre that we like to debate. The music we listen to and our choice of genre has differing effects. It can relax us, help us cope, sharpen our focus, or distract us. How and when to use music is a personal choice, especially when performing tasks or at work. Some feel more productive while listening, while others do not.

There are conflicting studies out there dissecting whether music helps or hurt productivity. How can you be sure what to believe? Let’s review a few statements and determine whether they are fact or fiction:

1) Music Makes Repetitive Tasks More Enjoyable

True – According to a article “How Music Affects Your Productivity” it has to do with the nature of the task. When a task is repetitive, music makes it more enjoyable, and it balances out the boring nature of the repetition.

2) The Type of Music You Listen to Effects Productivity

True – Productivity was clearly affected when upbeat music was played to a group versus heavy metal, per research stated in the Consumer Affairs article “How Listening to Music at Work Can Increase Productivity.” When the research was conducted a second time, comparing listening to upbeat music versus no music, the group’s contributions were much higher while listening to the upbeat music.

3) Listening to Music is Better than Hearing a Noisy Office

False – According to The Atlantic, “The Best Music for Productivity? Silence,” neuroscientist and author Daniel Levitin said, “the more engaging the music is, the worse it is for concentration.” Music with too many lyrics or too strong a beat can be a disadvantage. Levitin’s suggestion? “Take a break every few hours and listen to music for 15 minutes.”

One thing is clear: music has varying effects depending on the type of music being listened to, and for how long it’s being used. Evaluate your work habits and see if music is helping or hurting your productivity. It’s all about finding a comfort zone that makes you the most productive person you can be.