How to Use Sound to Increase Your Productivity and Focus
Can Sound Increase Productivity?
Should you listen to music or other sounds while completing work? The answer to this question is yes, and no. Sounds can increase your productivity depending on the sounds you introduce into your workspace and the type of work you are doing.
Here’s what you should consider:
- What is the task?
- What sounds work best for that task?
- What is your personal preference?
Match Your Sounds to Your Task
Tasks that are repetitive and non-complex
Studies show that listening to music with lyrics can actually help you complete monotonous tasks. As opposed to work that requires your focus and keeps your brain occupied, boring and repetitive tasks may make you crave an escape. Lyrics can provide an unstimulated mind with some relief. Choosing upbeat music can motivate you as you complete and repeat non-complex tasks.
Pick music that you are quite familiar with already. This way your brain won’t be distracted by what lyrics might come next. Choose to listen to music with lyrics only if you are completing a non-complex task or one that you’ve completed many times before.
Tasks that require thinking and focus
If your task requires a little more thought and consideration, choose music without lyrics. It isn’t only loud noises in general that distract us. According to a study by Cambridge Sound Management, 48% of people who work in an office are distracted by speech. If you’re using music to block out distracting speech and other office noise, listening to music with lyrics will only distract you further.
It’s best to pick something you’re familiar with for optimal productivity. Soundtracks, classical, and jazz are all good options for non-lyric music.
For times of deep focus, ambient sounds can improve creativity and productivity. While a high level of noise will have a negative impact on your productivity, a moderate level of ambient noise enhances performance.
Personal Preference Matters
It turns out that even if you match the type of work you are completing with the right type of sounds, personal preference still matters. When choosing what kind of upbeat music should pair with your mundane task, or what type of ambient sounds should go with your focused work, you need to pick what’s best for you.
A study found that selecting background music that people strongly like or strongly dislike can negatively impact worker concentration. If someone else is choosing the music, it can actually hinder your productivity. If you can’t pick your own music because of a shared work environment, wear headphones so that you can choose the sounds that work best for you.
Where to Find Productive Sounds
Spotify is a useful resource for finding soundtracks and non-lyric music. A simple search for “soundtrack” will get you hundreds of new releases as well as classic soundtracks. Don’t forget about video game soundtracks, which are perfect for concentrating on work. Video game music is designed to engage players while not distracting them from completing a task.
🎧 24 hour Soundtrack playlist on Spotify.
Free Music Archive offers a large selection of ambient tunes in several different genres. They have an interactive library of high-quality (and legal) audio downloads. You can search the archive based on genres to find the kind of music you’re interested in, and all of it is free to download.
Mix and match background noise to form your ideal soundscape. Do you find inspiration in the sounds of a thunderstorm? Logs roasting on an open fire? Both? With Noisli, you can mix sounds to create your ideal sound environment for optimal productivity.
Use the Timer feature to take advantage of other productivity techniques like Pomodoro. Divide up your tasks for the day by breaking down which sounds fit best with which tasks. You can also save and share your favorite sound combos with others to help your friends or others maximize their productivity.
The official Noisli app for iPhone, iPod, and iPad has a one-time fee, while the desktop version and all of its features are completely free.
A Soft Murmur is very similar to Noisli, but with a few different sound options like Singing Bowl and Crickets. You have the opportunity to combine several different sound environments, such as a rainy day and other nature sounds to create your optimal work environment. The site is completely free and also provides you with the option to create and share your own mixes, and a timer for scheduled productivity sessions. If you don’t want your session to end abruptly, there’s a fade option that will gradually reduce the white noise to help you ease out of your task.
If you like supporting indie development, check out A Soft Murmur.
Ambient-Mixer.com is a community-driven project that offers unique soundscapes as well as the ability to mix your own. Each sound atmosphere is a royalty-free audio file thanks to the Creative Commons Sampling Plus license, which means the mixes you create can also be used in commercial projects.
Noises range from realistic ambient nature sounds to fantasy and science fiction. Ever wanted to feel as though you’re working from inside a spaceship? Find community-made tracks emulating your favorite magical locations such as:
- A Storm on the Hogwarts Express
- In Rivendell
- Belle’s Library
- Loki's Chambers
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