Everyone has their own version of the perfect sonic environment in which they’re the most creative. For me, it’s silence, since music distracts me as I groove with it, then begin to analyze the production. Some people need a certain kind of music for them to maximize their productivity, while for others, they can have most any kind of music blaring in the background and they’re perfectly happy. Spotify now has a playlist designed specifically to help you focus, called, not surprisingly, “Focus.” It turns out there’s been a lot of studies on the subject, and their results will surprise you.
The type of work you do can be heavily influenced by music. A factory worker doing the same thing over and over shows an increase in productivity while listening to music because it makes the task less boring and keeps him alert. The same goes for truck drivers and, surprisingly, surgeons.
In the case where you have to do a complex task, people seem to do better in silence than with music. In fact, those who listen to their favorite upbeat songs did worse of all. One study found that middle-school students did worse on a comprehension test when listening to music with lyrics, and better with music without, which seems to mimic how adults react as well.
One recent study found that white noise actually helped children with ADHD concentrate. The authors of the study came to the conclusion that it was due to a concept called stochastic resonance, which means that lower-than-average dopamine levels in the brains of people with ADHD indicates they might need more noise in the surrounding environment to maintain their concentration.
The point is that everyone is different when it comes to what they like to listen to when they work, but you can’t be passive about it. To be at your most productive, you have to be fully aware of the audio stimulus around you. What do you listen to while you work?