Music can be a distraction during more difficult tasks
While listening to music increased Bailey’s productivity during habitual work, it also distracted him during projects that required all or most of his attention. That’s because music always consumes some of our focus, he notes. If you’re about to dive into a complex project, like research, the writer recommends listening to music before you start working to get your energy boost.
“I think the main things to keep in mind are that we should listen to music when we do something habitual and that we should listen to music when we’re not working so we get those productivity benefits when it’s time to work again,” he says.
Music affects introverts and extroverts differently
Personality impacts how music affects our productivity, according to the 28-year-old. A self-described “ambivert” who doesn’t fit neatly in either category, Bailey says introverts and extroverts both benefit from listening to music, but it may be more of a distraction for introverts. While extroverts thrive on stimulation, introverts are easily overstimulated, he says.
Music, which stimulates dopamine production in our brains, can also fool us into feeling like we’ve accomplished more than we really have.
“Extroverts perform better when they’re more stimulated by their environment and so having a cup of coffee before giving a presentation or before a big meeting or listening to music — which is also stimulating in a different way — doesn’t have as many negative effects for extroverts as it does for introverts,” explains the author.
Experiment with yourself
To create the best productivity soundtrack for you, Bailey recommends conducting your own experiment. How difficult is the work at hand? What songs energize you, and which distract you? How much are you able to accomplish when you listen to music vs when you don’t?
“I think ultimately with this or any piece of productivity advice we have to try it on for size,” says Bailey. “We have to see if it works for us.”
What to consider
- Simple and familiar music are most productive, especially during habitual tasks. Simple music and music we are familiar with tend to increase our productivity, whereas new and complicated music may distract us.
- Music can be a distraction during more difficult tasks. For more intensive projects that consume all or most of our focus, music may hurt our concentration. But listening to music beforehand can give us the energy boost we need to get the job done.
- Music affects introverts and extroverts differently. Extroverts may feel energized by music, while introverts may feel overstimulated.
- Experiment with yourself. Compare how much you are able to get done when you are listening to music vs when you’re not, and pay attention to how different types of music impact your ability to stay focused.