Music Enhances Productivity: The Science Behind The 10 Best Songs (2024)

If you’re like most people, your workload is heavy, and it probably seems to be increasing all the time. But you can tackle the demands and increase your productivity by listening to music. And there are key songs which tend to have the greatest effects on your motivation, your mood and your effectiveness.

You were probably aware of how music could improve your work outs, take your mind off household chores or pass the time during your commute—but music can actually help you work better, more efficiently and more happily. And there’s science that proves why music has such a positive impact.

The Best Songs

If you listen to music during the workday, you’re in good company. In fact, 81% listen daily, and 78% believe listening makes them more productive, according to a poll by Cloudcover Media.

Interesting analysis on 4,000 work-related Spotify playlists by TollFreeForwarding found the top songs people choose for productivity are:

  1. Drops of Jupiter by Train
  2. Dreams by Fleetwood Mac
  3. Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey
  4. Blinding Lights by The Weeknd
  5. Watermelon Sugar by Harry Styles
  6. As It Was by Harry Styles
  7. I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) by Whitney Houston
  8. Closer by The Chainsmokers
  9. Circles by Post Malone
  10. Flowers by Miley Cyrus


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Your choices may be different, but overall, classic rock, alternative and pop music were perceived to be the most helpful for productivity, while hip hop, heavy metal and electronic dance music (EDC) were perceived to be the most distracting, according to Cloudcover Media.

But beyond the titles and types of music, there are fascinating scientific reasons that music boosts your productivity—and these can inform your own choices.

Choose Your Favorites

Of course, you’re likely to choose music you like—at least when you’re in control or listening on personal headphones—but selecting the familiar has some powerful benefits. When you listen again and again, it’s called re-consumption, and it tends to drive greater emotional response, memory, connections with others and a shortcut to the experience you’re looking to achieve—a feeling, an energy level or a vibe. This is according to research published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

In addition to familiar choices, your favorite choices also boost performance, according to research by Keele University presented at the British Psychological Society. Listening to favorites had positive effects on everything from motivation, focus and enjoyment to reduced feelings of exertion and fatigue.

Music is also positive for your productivity because it activates the reward centers of your brain, especially when you hear a novel cord or a moment where the music shifts, according to research led by McGill University and published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

So choose what you love and let the motivation and productivity flow.

Choose Beat and Base

You can also amp your productivity with choices which feature faster tempos and steady beats. You tend to get physically in sync with music, so when you can move to a beat, and feel a steady flow of effort in alignment with the music, your productivity—and your motivation and endurance—will be positively impacted, according to studies headed by Costas Karageorghis at Brunel University.

The steady beat of music is also better for productivity than music which might have a more variable tempo. A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Inforamtion found when sound was more variable, it was more distracting. This applies to people who might be speaking around you. When the sound is more monotone, it’s easier to block out. But when the volume, tone or cadence increases or decreases, it will tend to be more distracting. And this is true for the music you work by as well. Choose a steady beat to enhance productivity and avoid distraction.

The tone of the music also matters. When people experienced music with more bass, they tended to feel greater levels of power and control—both of which influence your feelings of capability and effectiveness toward greater productivity—according to research published in Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Choose Music For Your Task

One caution is to choose music that doesn’t compete with the task you’re trying to accomplish. For example, if you’re doing a language-oriented task like writing or preparing a presentation, you are wise to listen to non-verbal music. On the other hand, if you’re doing a task which is non-verbal like developing a new graphic, the words in the music may not bother you.

This is based on research published in Applied Acoustics which found that when you understand about 20% of speech, your performance may decline—and when you can understand 30%-50%, it degrades even more significantly. This applies to the conversations you overhear at the office, but also to the words you hear in songs.

In addition, if you’re doing tasks which feel more mindless and don’t require your concentration, you can also choose music that helps you dissociate—taking your mind off something you don’t enjoy. When you do, it can improve both your performance and your mood, according to research published in Psychology of Sport and Exercise.

Choose Music That Connects

You’ll also want to be selective about music which connects you with others—at least when you’re listening together. Music can be polarizing. For example, country music is one genre people tend to either love and find terribly distracting, according to the Cloudcover Media poll. You’re wise to ensure everyone likes what you’re listening to, and avoid playlists that cause controversy or get on people’s nerves.

Music can also help you bond because you can call up shared experiences. Perhaps you’re at a similar life stage with colleagues and remember being in high school when a certain song was popular. You don’t have the same memories, but you share the importance of that period of your life—and this can energize your relationships.

And music can also engage shared memories. You listened to a certain playlist while the team was volunteering at the community garden. Or you listened to a band on your long drive back and forth to a pivotal customer meeting. In these cases, listening together can remind you of the links and experiences you share—for the benefit of your bonds.

The bottom line: Leverage music as a way to bond with coworkers.

Listen Well

Overall, you’ll want to be selective what music works best for you. Listen because you love a song or a playlist, but be cognizant of how it affects the particular task you’re doing. For some, music might work well and for others, you may choose the sound of silence for some parts of your life or work.

Music Enhances Productivity: The Science Behind The 10 Best Songs (2024)
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