Pump Up the Volume and Drown Out Distractions

When you’re up against a deadline in a noisy environment, what do you do to get into the zone?

We’ve all been there. The clock is ticking, and an important piece of work – perhaps a client presentation or proposal – needs to be delivered, but incessant buzz and chatter makes it impossible to concentrate. The minutes are slipping away. What to do?

One option is to pack up your things and go elsewhere, but sometimes that just isn’t feasible. This is when I often reach for my headphones and a favorite Spotify playlist or two. Accompanied by my own personal soundtrack, I’m able to block out distraction and focus on the work at hand.

For me, this works perfectly. But is it really a viable strategy?

A recent study at the University of Miami looked at how music affects workplace performance. It found that people who listened to music worked faster, more efficiently and more creatively than those who didn’t. Researcher Teresa Lesiuk concluded that music helps people work for the simple reason that it boosts mood. “When you’re stressed, you might make a decision more hastily; you have a very narrow focus of attention,” she said. “When you’re in a positive mood, you’re able to take in more options.” Other studies have cited the “Mozart effect,” a hypothesis that classical music can boost our ability to solve complex, long-term problems.

However, personal choice is clearly important. What works for me (the debut album from The xx, for instance) may not work for a colleague who happens to prefer Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries.” If you share a workspace, this is worth keeping in mind next time you compile a playlist of your all-time classic hits. Productivity may decline if you force everyone else to listen to “Eye of the Tiger.”

So, does music work for you? What do you listen to while you’re working? If you’re at a loss, perhaps this handy flowchart may help you find the perfect working jam.


Photo credit: meyerfelix