How to Utilize Your Music Playlist to Improve Productivity

People love their music. With music now accessible in so many ways and in so many settings, using music as an aid to work is commonplace. PJ Kaka argued in her Pick the Brain Article can temporarily make you smarter and can reduce stress. Many folks claim their music is essential to a successful work day. How important is your playlist to achieving greater productivity? 

If the music you play (or don’t play) while at work helps you get things done efficiently, keep it up. Don’t mess with success. If however, you aren’t satisfied with your musical landscape during work hours, here are 5 guidelines for using music to maximize your productivity and minimize distractions. 

Choose to Focus to increase productivity

Find music that helps you achieve focus and efficiency. This will look different for everyone. Some commonly used music styles for promoting focus at work include: Classical, Acoustic, Gaming, and Electronic. Ambient music seems to be the key. According to a study on  The Effects of Ambient Noise on Creative Cognition, maintaining the sound level of your music at 70dB may increase your creativity on a given task. Look for music styles that are non-obtrusive and have minimal dynamic changes throughout the piece. Choose music you’re already familiar with to help you stay focussed on the work at hand.  

Tune out distractions to boost productivity

If you work in an office setting (particularly in an open plan office) trying to block out excess noise and distractions can be aggravating. The constant rise and fall of voices has proven to be more distracting to office workers than having a steady, continuous noise in the background. This fact may prove to be an impetus for establishing mood music in the workplace to help stabilize the auditory environment. (Think of your favorite coffee shop or restaurant and imagine recreating the style, and volume of their background music.) If this option is off the table in your situation, consider acquiring a set of noise-cancelling headphones to help you focus. Limiting distracting noises can go a long way towards boosting your personal productivity in an office setting. 

Match your Work 

When you select a style of music for work-time listening, make sure you’re not initiating a mix-match of moods. Don’t mix lyrical songs with jobs that involve writing.  If you work as a surgeon, classical music might be more helpful than hip-hop. Rhythmic songs can be a great tool to help you pace yourself during exercise or other physical activities. According to one study, music can be an aid to productivity if your daily job includes repetitive tasks. In short, find a genre that works well with your type of work. 

Set the mood

Listening to the right kind of music can have a powerful effect on your mood.  One study involving Computer Information Systems developers concluded that there was an overall positive effect  on work-performance when music was allowed on the job. This makes sense when you realize that our bodies release the “pleasure sensation” hormone called dopamine when we listen to, or anticipate thrilling musical sequences. Since listening to great music can stimulate the release of dopamine, choosing the right music can lighten your mood as you work. Better mood = better productivity, so pick music that boosts your motivation, and keeps you working efficiently. I doubt your boss will complain. 

Know when to Turn it Off. 

Asking someone to quit playing their music is never fun. Don’t make them do it! With music readily available in nearly every  work setting, the style and volume of your music can easily become an aggravation to someone else working nearby. There’s also the chance that your music might occasionally distract you from completing the task at hand. While music can provide a great emotional boost, it can also prove to be detrimental to the productivity of you and your coworkers. Find some headphones, turn the volume down, or turn the music off if it becomes too distracting. Remember, a peaceful work environment is also a productive one. 

As you head to work with your music next week, keep these guidelines in mind. Find a playlist that works well for you (and your neighbors) and get to work.

Ben Tejes is the Co-Founder and CEO of Ascend Finance, a platform to help people achieve self improvement in the area of personal finance. He is a writer for the Ascend Blog where he writes on topics such as Chapter 7, Chapter 13debt, collections and creditors to help people get out of debt and experience financial freedom.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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