How music can increase productivity. And hinder it.

There’s a time and a place at work to unleash your music.

Photo by Icons8 team on Unsplash

Personal Power Anthems

Music has the power to unleash your inner superhero and increase your performance when preparing for stressful situations.

No joke. Curating a list of hype-you-up songs and listening to it frequently is scientifically proven to increase self-confidence and feelings of power. In one study, 78 students were asked to listen to an instrumental piece in two consecutive rounds. For the first go, researchers played the music as per the original recording. The second time around they cranked the bass like moody teenagers with something to prove. The result? Participants felt noticeably powerful, determined — even dominant.

Does this mean enduring “Eye of the Tiger” on repeat for days? Thankfully, no. But maybe. It depends on what you like. Whatever revs your engine is perfect. Just make sure it’s full on and then crank the volume. Next time you need to impress an investor or dazzle a crowd, pump yourself up with your power anthem and go get ’em, Tiger.

Killing Creativity Softly

It’s intuitive to think music boosts creativity. To some extent, it’s true. But when it comes to verbal creativity, recent research out of Lancaster University shows that music — regardless of whether it’s classical, or foreign, or self-indulgent feel-good pop — messes with ideation and problem solving. Silence is golden.

Researchers presented people with verbal insight problems believed to tap into creativity. For example, “Find a word associated to the following: dial, dress, and flower.” (Can you figure it out? The answer is below.) Participants completed their problems in different auditory environments. The ones who worked in silence (or with minimal noise, like in a library) scored higher than their peers. Music “significantly impaired” the rest of the pack, even the folks who typically work with in noisy environments. Sound variations interfere with your brain’s ability to excel.

It means that jamming to Kings of Leon during a brainstorming session is definitely a bad idea, not that you needed proof. (Start at the 45-second mark. 15 seconds of hysteria can be yours.)

If music keeps you motivated, great. Just reserve it for time spent doing routine or process-driven tasks. Otherwise, keep your headphones on but kill the volume. You’ll boost creativity and solve problems faster.

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*the answer is sun

Co-Founder of Heights, & Host of Secret Leaders, I write about brain health, mental wellbeing & entrepreneurship.

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