What We’re Working To: How Music Boosts Productivity
With the advent of sleek wireless headphones and 64 GB devices, it’s easier than ever to add a soundtrack to your life. Whether you’re commuting, jogging, or making a hat for your crush, every moment now has the potential to take on a cinematic level of drama and significance.
Music is good for more than just the drama: Studies have shown that certain sounds can boost productivity — but they stipulate that everyone’s response to music is different. Ultimately, it’s up to you to figure out what kind of music (if any) helps you get your work done.
Related: Clean language is music to our ears. Learn to ditch the jargon.
As for the D Custom team, here’s what work music keeps us focused.
Kate Crouse — Director of Digital Media Strategy
“I listen to music at every moment that I can in life. I spend quite a bit of my day in meetings, but when I’m at my desk, music keeps me focused and inspired. And in an open-concept office, it’s a great way to generate the feeling of a little privacy when you need it.
“I’m a huge movie-score buff. Sometimes, when I’m really trying to focus, lyrics can make it difficult to be as clearheaded as I need to be. Some people listen to relaxing piano; I jam to movie scores. Recently, I’ve been in an all-out Game of Thrones music binge, for obvious reasons. Not exactly peaceful, but certainly fantastic.”
Yuri Strain — Account Supervisor
“I can’t listen to audiobooks or podcasts while I work, but I like morning radio shows, because I can tune out and back in as needed. Then, music in the afternoon. The type varies based on my mood, but in the morning, it’s always lighter beats. I need to wake up before I get to the loud stuff.”
Kelsey Vanderschoot — Managing Editor
“It depends on my stress level, but if I’m really freaking out, I turn on the Pirates of the Caribbean theme song on repeat. It’s something I’ve done since college finals.”
Kylie Valigura — Art Director
“When designing, I’m leaning heavily on my visual skills, so listening to dynamic music with lyrics actually helps me immerse myself in my designs and think more creatively.
“I’m an obsessive playlist maker, so I do a lot of music discovery as I work. I actually have a work-music playlist (check it out!) that’s grown to almost 200 tracks over the years. Discover Weekly on Spotify is my go-to when I need a break from my typical tunes. That normally takes me down a music rabbit hole, which is much like my creative process! I’ve always felt that music and visual arts go hand in hand.”
Michaela Brandt — Digital Media Strategist
“Earlier in the day and week, especially when checking emails and performing other routine tasks, I listen to work music that boosts my mood. Some of my favorite Spotify playlists are 80s Popped! and Mood Booster. When I’m reading or writing, however, I need white noise music to drown out my surroundings without distracting my thought process. For those moments, I put both headphones in and focus by listening to Lo-Fi Beats or Your Favorite Coffeehouse playlists. Most Fridays, I listen to RapCaviar to give me a final push for the end of the workweek.”
Mitch Gruen — Editorial Intern
“I find music distracting if I’m seriously trying to concentrate. I think it’s because I grew up playing guitar. Even if there aren’t any lyrics, when I hear music, I start to think about patterns and intervals, how the music might be notated, or what the musician’s fingers are doing. Sometimes for more mundane tasks, classical music will work — I especially like the theme from Indiana Jones. I’ve also had some success with Marconi Union, a chill instrumental trio from the U.K.”
After polling the D office, we found that people who never listen to music at work are rare (at least in this office). Most of us are what we would call “moderate listeners”: listening for a few hours each day when the task at hand is one that goes well with music.
Like any other part of your creative process, the key is to pay attention to what works best for you. If you’re trying to figure out whether music or silence makes you most productive, consider using a time-management method like the Pomodoro Technique and alternating between a day of work with music and a day without. This can help you uncover what kind of work music helps you and which tasks benefit the most from a soundtrack.
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