Last month CMI conducted a poll asking followers of its LinkedIn Company page to respond to how they keep distractions at a minimum at work. Somewhat surprisingly, 38% of respondents indicated that listening to music was their preferred concentration support method. Personally, I also listen to music while working but it has to be the right type of music and volume for me to get into the right mood. 

Subsequent to the poll, I was doing a fair amount of reading on the benefits of listening to music and here are some of the ideas that I discovered. 

Music has been shown to improve both productivity and cognitive performance, especially in adults. In particular, listening to music can help people manage anxiety, become motivated, and stay productive. When it comes to listening to music while at work, knowing how to make the right playlist that will keep you uplifted for several hours during the day is key. 

Start off slow – Kick off the day with a concept that is used in music therapy known as the ISO Principle, which is a technique therapists use to alter the mood of a patient. In this technique, the first music to be played should coincide with how one is feeling. Then, gradually transition to songs that will achieve a desired mood. If you’re feeling down in the morning, then find something a little on the peaceful side to start with. From there, try listening to more of an upbeat song from some of your favorite musicals or bands. 

Researchers have found that a faster track speed can result in increased performance. One study examined the relationship between music tempo and productivity, and found that most test subjects performed best while listening to songs paced at around 121 beats per minute. This is about as fast as tracks like Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” and “I Will Survive” by Diana Ross. 

Volume is also a very important factor and can be one of the most difficult to adjust. Restful music may have to be played a little louder while more dramatic music will need to be on the softer side. 

A power song at strategic points in a work playlist, such as in the mid-morning, while transitioning between tasks, mid-afternoon, and as the day ends, can also help maintain a feeling of energy.

Lyrical tracks in a playlist should depend on an individual’s preference. While research suggests that listening to upbeat music can help workers stay alert and energized while performing repetitive tasks, narrative lyrics can be distracting to those who are trying to solve problems. Basically, you’re concentrating more on the lyrics than on the problem at hand. 

Playing the same songs over and over can become monotonous, slowing down your productivity. The key is to keep changing it up with the right mix so that your senses get stimulated, but not over top. 

Trial and error and flexibility are all key components to making your listening enjoyable and your work performance incredible!

Nancy Seiverd, President, CMI Credit Mediators, Inc.

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