I’m sitting at my usual desk, headphones stuffed in my ears, Spotify is playing new tracks from the Discover section, but I feel weird. I don’t understand why in the last two hours I’ve struggled so hard to put a couple of words together.
And I still do not understand why yesterday my articles were basically writing themselves, although I had the mellow and electro beat of Darkside pumping in my hears.
I turn off the music and get back to work: my hands are starting to type again on the keyboard.
However I decide to procrastinate and discover why it was so difficult to type even a single word: I love music and this is the first time that it’s causing troubles to me. After reading plenty of studies from various behaviourist and physicians, I understand that there is a reason why Darkside is fine as music to listen while at work while random music isn’t.
Does Mozart do it for you?
The so-called “Mozart effect” was made public in 1993: a team of neurobiologist proved that after 10 minutes of listening to Mozart’s Sonata subjects showed an improvement in spatio-temporal reasoning skills and temporary mental enhancement when listening to his composition.
When I first came across to this research while at college, I thought that I had found the perfect solution to my troubled relationship with maths. I started listening to Mozart while doing my homeworks and my marks got a bit better for a while but unfortunately I couldn’t avoid to end up the year with an overall F in that subject.
Why my marks got better? Listening to music, particularly pleasant music such as the one of the Austrian composer, increases the level of dopamine (a neurotransmitter that lifts the mood) in the brain, most likely the factor that improves cognitive performance. The body temperature rises, the conductivity of our skin increases and the internal reward system is activated. We can have the same effect by eating a chocolate bar, junk food or when we receive a new message from a recent Twitter follower – it drives us, makes us more creative and motivated to find out more.
How we should listen to music?
As New York Times recently reported, dopamine can help to do certain tasks more quickly and efficiently. They found that positive effects are to be expected on the quality and quantity of the performance, especially where employees pursue rather monotonous work or work in night shifts. However, if the job is mentally demanding, listening to music may have a negative result.
There are small tricks to maximize the effect of music on your productivity:
- Listen to music at a moderate level: high volume level diverts attention from what’s happening around you and it may also cause hearing loss.
- 20-30 minutes of music are enough to regain concentration and motivation – take a break and get back to the real world once in a while.
- Avoid listening to random playlist – prefer repetitive, happy and easy listening songs.
- Prefer instrumental music if you are writing a blog post – you don’t want to add words from your favourite hip-hop arti$t to your article. YO!
- Choose your songs wisely according to your tasks: simple tasks can be done while listening to fast-paced music while more complex ones should be addressed in a quieter atmosphere.
Headphones or speakers? The first ones are more dev-friendly and are great if you like to engage paperball fights when calling a colleague at the other side of the office (your boss may not be happy about that though), on the other hand speakers are only accepted when the dj in your office is not a metalhead – it’s never a good starting point if a new client is welcomed with Raining Blood by Slayer playing in the background and he gets involved in a mosh pit with the whole marketing department.
What should we listen to
If you need to increase the concentration and isolate yourself from the office’s distraction, just select music that uses has a deep sound and a regular rhythm. There are loads of productivity playlists filled mainly by chill out music, loungy stuff and ambient sounds, that follow the same pattern: calm, smooth, monotone and extremely relaxing.
For those who don’t want to surrender to the classic, who are always looking for new mixtapes and artists, we have made a playlist on Spotify called: “Death to procrastination”.
Our playlist is a collaborative one, that means that you can edit it by adding or deleting and tracks that suits all your colleagues’ taste.
So try it out and let us know what you think – leave your thoughts in the comment section and send us your suggestions for the next playlist.