Coffee is always awesome for getting going in the morning. A good night’s rest will ensure you start your day off on the right foot, too. But what do you do the rest of the day to keep your energy levels up, your creative juices flowing, and your focus on your work?
According to some studies, listening to music while you work can provide a much-needed boost throughout the day. They say it helps improve productivity, cut down on time spent on tasks, and inspire more creativity.
If you’ve been struggling with productivity lately, finding the perfect playlist to accompany you throughout the workday could help. Obviously, cranking out Jay-Z’s latest album probably isn’t the best idea, but there are musical genres that have proven to aid in productivity and the creative process. Let’s take a look at what the science has to say and see if we can find that perfect playlist for you.
What the Science Says About Music and Work
For many WordPress freelancers who work from the comfort of home, having a little music playing in the background can be a relief. All those sounds of “nothing” or even the ambient noises from around your home can allow your mind to wander—and that’s not helpful when you’re trying to move through your web projects with speed and accuracy.
Then there are some of you who work outside of the home, commuting into a co-work space, coffee shop, or other workplace setting. You’re likely doing this to break up the monotony of working at home alone, but know that it comes with a tradeoff. There is definitely no silence to be found there.
Regardless of which type of work environment you find yourself in, it’s good to know that music’s got your back. While there are some studies that warn that music can be harmful to productivity and attention, there’s almost always an asterisk next to them. And the asterisk is this: so long as you listen to the right type of music and under the right circumstances, music can actually be quite helpful for your workflow.
In a 2005 study of “The effect of music listening on work performance” for computer software developers, they first referenced previous studies that supported their argument. One such study demonstrated how music helped ease anxiety in developers. Another showed how music improved mood enough to where it helped people think in a clearer, more organized manner; thus, giving them more freedom to be creative.
The researchers of this study then set out to prove that music did indeed have a positive effect on developers’ quality of work. Perhaps the most interesting fact they uncovered was that listening to music decreased the amount of time developers spent on tasks.
Researchers of this study were inspired by athletes, of all people. They watched as athletes walked into the stadium with headphones on, assuming that they were listening to music to pump them up for what was about to come. They further hypothesized that certain types of music would be more empowering than others and do a better job of setting the mood for kicking ass.
What they found in their study was that listeners had a more powerful response to music that was heavy in bass. And, by “powerful”, I mean that listeners felt more empowered and braver to tackle tasks or business matters that they may not otherwise have the confidence to approach.
Empowering, bass-heavy song examples they gave were “In Da Club”:
And “We Will Rock You”:
For some of you, the issue might not be that you need an inspiring music soundtrack to bolster creativity or productivity. It might just be that you need something—anything—to block out the ambient sounds you find around you. At home, that might be screaming kids down the hall. At work that might be the person humming to themselves in the cubicle next to yours or the person slurping their coffee a few tables away.
In this study, they wanted to see what “sound masking” would do in a work setting. They hypothesized “that ‘natural’ sounds as masking sounds have the ability… to meet standards and criteria for speech privacy while enhancing cognitive functioning, optimizing the ability to concentrate, and increasing overall worker satisfaction.”
Best Practices for Listening to Music While You Develop Websites
Of course, not all songs or nature soundtracks are made equal. When precise attention-to-detail, speed, and efficiency are all important to the resulting quality of your web development work, you need to be careful about which music you stream through your headphones or speakers.
Here are some basic best practices to adhere to when choosing music for developing WordPress websites to:
- If you’re looking at something for the first time or trying to learn something new about a client or project, don’t listen to anything.
- Researchers have found that it’s incredibly difficult to focus on two things at once and so you should never compromise the information-gathering process with music.
- If you’re working in a distracting environment like a co-work space or a home full of kids and pets, then yes, definitely put on some music.
- Repetitive, monotonous tasks are a dime a dozen when developing websites in WordPress (though hopefully you’ve found a way to automate or outsource as many of those as possible). This sort of work can definitely be accompanied by music.
- Don’t try out a new album or playlist when you’re working. If you’re commuting to work, taking a midday break to stretch and eat, or want to celebrate landing a new client, by all means do so.
- Listen to music that you already know or that has a sound and rhythm you’re familiar with (like classical music). The less reason you have to stop and think about the music you’re listening to, the better it’ll work in helping you stay focused.
- As much as you can, try to listen to music without vocals. It doesn’t matter if you know the songs or not. Words spoken by others can distract from the thoughts within your own head.
- Listen to something that supports the mood you want to be in. Preferably not something too funky or something too melancholy. Find the perfect Goldilocks of soundtracks to keep you mellow but motivated.
- If you have a tendency to get stressed out, there are those that say that listening to a song with a beat that matches the rate of your ideal heartbeat can help keep you calm, focused, and on track.
If you want some more tips and inspiration, I’d suggest you take a look at what the engineers from top companies like Snapchat, Facebook, and Airbnb listen to and why. As you can see, there’s a lot of good logic here in why certain playlists work for certain people and you may find that what works for them makes sense for your preferred work style, too.
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The Best Music for Productivity
When you’re developing websites, writing up new client contracts, and managing all of the other day-to-day tasks for your business, music clearly can be a huge boon to productivity and creativity. You just have to find the right playlist to support that uptick in energy and work.
Now, everyone’s taste in music will differ in some respects, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t genres that we all shouldn’t stick to when it comes to listening to music at work. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
Classic music is great for when you realllllllly need to concentrate. Specifically, studies have shown Baroque to be the most effective in increasing efficiency and accuracy.
Check these out:
I’ll be the first to admit that I always associated “electronic” music with the club hits of my youth. That said, I was recently thrilled to discover an offshoot of electronic music called Atmospheric Electronic. It’s become one of my favorite things to listen to when I need to tackle repetitive, mindless tasks and to get them done as quickly as possible.
Here are some others worth trying out:
Video Game Music
It doesn’t matter if you’re a gamer now or were in the past. There is something about the basic formula of video game music that makes it ideal for web development work: “Because the music is designed to foster achievement and help players get to the next level, it activates a similar ‘in it to win it’ mentality while working…. At the same time, it’s not too disruptive to your concentration.”
Check these out:
Again, you don’t have to be a movie buff in order to appreciate a good movie soundtrack while you work. And, by movie soundtrack, I’m not talking about the pop songs that appear in movie trailers and throughout films by artists we all recognize. I’m referring to the original scores used in movies to change the mood, set the scene, and play with tension.
Here are some interesting mixes to try out:
As study #3 demonstrated, natural soundtracks are great for masking ambient sounds that distract you from your work. They are also a good alternative for people who need some noise to break up the silence of working at home, but who don’t want to listen to music.
Check out these options:
This last suggestion can really work for any music genre you prefer: pop, jazz, hip-hop, reggae, blues, rock, etc. Just remember that if you’re going to listen to popular music while working, you’ll want them to be free of lyrics and to be songs that you’re familiar with. If you’re using it to pump you up on the commute in or in preparation for a big meeting, stick with songs that have a strong bass line. And, of course, don’t forget to make it upbeat. Your music should always reflect the mood you want to be in.
So, what have we learned today? Music is good and silence is bad for the web developer’s workspace? Perhaps.
I’d simply suggest you approach the addition of music to your workflow the way you’d approach anything else you do in web development. Tackle it on a case-by-case basis. No two projects will ever be the same, so you may find that an inspiring movie soundtrack works better when building a new music licensing website whereas a mellow electronic playlist suits you better when you develop websites for non-profits.