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Melodious Motivation

A click turns spreadsheets into a dance party, and email becomes an orchestra. 

Music has a powerful effect on humans in general, but it can also be a pretty useful tool for increasing productivity in the work day (if used properly). In a study by the University of Miami, researchers found that participants who listened to music while completing a task finished quicker and had better ideas.

However, work time music is not for everyone or all workplaces. Music should be used as an aid for productivity and not as a wall to separate you from your coworkers. It’s best to discuss it with your supervisor before implementing music into your work day.

Here are a few things to consider while rocking out before you clock out:

  • Headphones, always. While you may think you’re expanding your coworker’s musical horizons, not everyone enjoys Peruvian pan flute music at 8:00 am. Make sure that your music is at a reasonable level so you don’t hurt your ears and can hear your phone ring.
  • Try something new. Look into instrumental music, rather than lyrical. Lyrics can get distracting, but classical, electronic, or ambient music can really help you concentrate. Use Pandora, Spotify, or YouTube to scope out your next playlist. Give soundtracks from movies or video games a try. These scores have been designed to increase focus and engagement without being distracting. (Plus, it can be really motivating to finish your “mission!”)
  • But sometimes familiarity can be best. New music can be an exciting new exploration, but it can also lead you to get lost in the excitement. With new music you are more likely to get caught in the funk of “What movie was this from?” or “Where have I heard this before?” If you are more familiar with the music, it requires less attention, and you can still enjoy the positive emotions the music brings you.
  • It doesn’t have to be music. If you just can’t handle all those sweet dance moves and air guitar solos, try ambient noise. In a study by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, researchers found that participants scored highest on a test when they were exposed to 70 decibels of ambient background noise. For those of you who don’t walk around with a decibel meter, it’s about as loud as your dishwasher or shower. Websites like asoftmurmur.com allow you to choose the ambient noise of your choice.
  • Be aware of its effect on you. There’s nothing like your favorite tunes, but if you find yourself getting lost in the song or daydreaming off the Irish coast, it may be time to turn it off. Be responsible with your playlist.

Whether music is a tool or a distraction, some studies argue that the music itself may not be what is motivating you. It’s just a mechanism that improves mood and increases dopamine levels. Even ambient noise reminds us of cozy rainy evenings or your local coffee shop. If music doesn’t work for you, you can substitute it with something else that gives you the warm fuzzies.


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