I’m a music fanatic. I bet a few of you out there share my passion. These days, we’re so obsessed with multi-tasking that I’m not sure anyone ever stops just to listen.
Seriously: people used to just listen. They used to sit down, put a record on and listen. Who does that?
Like many of my friends, I’m usually spinning something on Spotify during the workday. Not everyone can enjoy a harmonious workday. But writing is a job of isolation, and I’ve met plenty of us who like to type in time to the beat.
But is it good for productivity? I’ve heard different opinions on whether they consider music a distraction or a complement to work. According to the science, it’s actually that complicated: some people can function with music in the background, and some can’t. And the “why” is pretty surprising.
Words vs. Words
Writers who listen to music place their brain in the crossfire. It’s a battle of words.
Clearly, words in their own right are good things for writers. Reading the written word has a powerful effect on how strong of a writer you are. But in a medium like music, they can be disastrous if consumed while you try to put original words on the page.
You require all of your faculties when it’s time to create. A lyrical onslaught buzzing insistently in your ear can hinder that. And it isn’t just writers.
According to studies in Taiwan, “listening to music with lyrics was linked to lower scores on tests of concentration in a study of 102 college students.” It isn’t the music competing for that brain-space. It’s your brain subconsciously attempting to decode the words it’s absorbing. And your prefrontal cortex is fighting an uphill battle where it attempts to block out stimuli unrelated to the task at hand.
It can help, too.
Sure, listening to music while you work can be productive, too. But the benefits are just in your head.
In reality, most of the studies attempting to link music and concentration have proven quite the opposite. The biggest question is whether listening to music helps you block out other sounds. Some argue that wearing noise-cancellation helps block out the noise of the office.
If you’re working from home, outside noise is probably less of a factor. What becomes a major factor is how much you enjoy music. Another study in Taiwan showed subjects with strong feelings about the music they were listening to affected concentration negatively. Indifferent listeners tuned it out.
Here are a couple of tips I find useful in my daily writing experience:
- Listen to songs you’ve heard a lot. It’s easier to use the tried-and-true songs to as a complement to your writing because it’s easier to block out the lyrics.
- Try to listen to classical music and other songs without lyrics.
- Turn the volume down so the tunes aren’t overwhelming your brain.
Hey, you! Check out my article over at the Content Marketing Institute today, Should You Curate Content? The Essentials Every Content Marketer Needs to Consider.