Boosting Productivity with Music

Synthia Stark

Photo by Juja Han on Unsplash — A little music is good now and then.

As an aspiring therapist who is going through her second bout of graduate school, there have been many opportunities where working occurred remotely, including instances where a mixture of repetitive and creative tasks occurred, such as filling out large-scale spreadsheets, typing out laboratory reports, and responding to crisis calls.

While working, it can be incredibly frustrating when dealing with a myriad of mitigating distractions, like the chatter of a loved one who is sitting inside another room of your house, the sounds of your neighbour suddenly mowing the lawn, and the other neighbour’s dog barking outside.

It’s possible that listening to specific kinds of music, such as through your local streaming service, your television, or your computer, may hold some semblance of a solution. For example, perhaps there are specific songs that lull you into a sense of great slumber, while there are other songs out there that motivate you to powerwalk like there’s no tomorrow...kind of like how Rocky did when he climbed up those infamous 72 stone steps towards the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Just as music can provide background noise while working on multiple tasks, scientific literature has shown that music can improve one’s cognitive performance and productivity, especially among us adults.

Specifically, music arouses us, where fast tempos and major modes elicit happier and positive moods while slow tempos and minor modes elicit sad and negative moods. Listening to music also provides many other benefits, including reducing our level of anxiety towards emerging problems and increasing our motivation to succeed at our jobs.

The key to optimizing our schedules is making the most ideal music playlist suited to our personal, professional, and unique interests. As mentioned earlier, if you’re working on emotionally draining tasks, it doesn’t make sense to listen to music that further aggravates those feelings of dread. Instead, keep it simple, and read onward.

Photo by Lee Campbell on Unsplash — There’s nothing wrong with a good set of headphones.

Crafting that Perfect Playlist

1. Using the Iso Principle

The iso principle first originated in 1948 and is a technique sometimes used by music therapists to help influence the mood of the client. For example, imagine someone prone to getting angry plenty of times. If they are seeing a therapist, the therapist is going to try a variety of different strategies to ensure that the client is better able to regulate their emotions.

Perhaps the therapist will find specific music that corresponds to the client’s feelings and interests. After a while, the therapist, with the client’s permission, will gradually alter the songs being played to the client until the client reaches a more desirable emotional state.

For example, a high-tempo version of your favourite song eventually becomes a slow-tempo and acoustic rendition of the same song. It’s most curious to think that certain types of music can have this effect on people, especially across many days, months, or even years.

Drawing upon those therapeutic ideas, crafting that perfect playlist can follow elements of the iso principle. For example, perhaps the first songs on your playlist include items that you might actually like, such as slow-tempo jazz, and then it gradually veers towards that productivity mindset, like that power-walking Rocky music.

Depending on your individual needs, your interests are going to vary significantly. However, depending on the music or streaming services that you use, auto-generated recommendations can make the search for songs much easier. Certain services like Spotify or Youtube have algorithms where it can anticipate the kinds of songs that you might like or perhaps there are existing playlists out there that resonate with you specifically.

Photo by Fixelgraphy on Unsplash — Customizing a playlist can sometimes be daunting.

2. Starting off Calm and Veering Towards Energetic

If you find yourself feeling incredibly gloomy for most mornings, perhaps songs at the starting point of your playlist can include peaceful and calming tunes. For example, this study has shown that the sounds of nature or other natural noises can mask the intelligible noises in your environment while also optimizing satisfaction and concentration.

In other words, when you’re in doubt about the kinds of music that you want to listen to, perhaps a simple tune is in order, such as the sounds of gentle rain, crickets chirping, the slow but faded beatings of a light drum, and many more.

As you continue to work, perhaps you will get bored with these specific “natural” tunes. Perhaps you will make your playlist so that the songs start picking up on their tempo and speed, especially during the mid-day crunch where you might start to feel tired again.

Perhaps you’ve got some time until you have your lunch or dinner, but you need to power on for just a little longer. This could also be your cue to listen to increasingly motivational songs. For example, another study has shown that music with higher tempos can promote surges of productivity, prolonging motivation. If it can work while cycling, it can certainly work while sitting at your desk.

Photo by Timothy L Brock on Unsplash — Keep going with the hard work ethic. You got this.

3. Finding the Songs as You Go Along

Finally, when it comes to making or even editing productivity playlists, it shouldn’t feel like a burden or a chore in having to choose the right song at the right time. It’s not supposed to be time-consuming operation.

For example, instead of spending many hours creating this playlist while you are working, or wasting your night away trying to make sense of what might work, you can opt to add just one or two songs here and there, when you have the downtime until you feel it is ready.

Plus, like mentioned earlier, there are people out there who have crafted hundreds of playlists online, ranging from various scenarios, such as playlists to dance to, playlists to work the night away, and so much more.

As your playlists grow, you can arrange your songs in however way you feel like, at a pace appropriate to you. If you give yourself the flexibility to sometimes try out and get a feel for the various songs out there, you’ll be able to optimize your productivity, one tune at a time.

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Writer & Researcher | Therapist-in-Training | Crisis Responder | Writing wholesome stories for the masses.

New York City, NY

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