Listenin' for Typin': Music for Productivity


Generally, collective wisdom has it that, when it comes to concentrating: Blink-182 bad, Chopin good. But *pushes glasses to end of nose* it’s actually more complicated than that.

As many of us prepare to return to the office and the classroom – or are still just trying really hard to get some/any work done – we take a short, focused and productive look at staying focused and productive – with the help of your tunes.

Popping Out

Several studies show that "popular" music is not ideal for productivity. Principally because so many of the hooks and tropes in modern pop are the opposite of the calming and non-distracting characteristics that define ‘music for focus’. But – and we’ll come back to this – "productive music" just like "good music" is entirely in the eye/ear/brain of the beholder.

Dozing Off

Ironically, the same characteristics that make tracks good for chilling out and getting to sleep also make them good for working:

Little or no lyrics

Words can be distracting, and occasionally show up in the middle of smoke on the water blogs that you’re writing. RHA’s very own Matt the Engineer listens to French pop for exactly this reason: “it’s nice but I don’t understand it”. More traditional approaches include classical music, electronic music (but the ambient, Eno kind, not the thrashy Justice kind) and video/film music – stuff that was made to tell a story and set a scene without words. Trying to do something epic? Stick on a John Williams soundtrack. Doing your taxes? Maybe a something a little more airport-y.

Easy, predictable melody

If you’ve ever listened to music that cycles through three or four genres in the space of one song, and been oddly stressed by it, you’re not alone. The feeling of familiarity of being able to roughly predict what music is going to do next puts you at ease and helps you concentrate.

Stuff you Like

If you’ve ever worked in an office, you’ll know the emotional pain of being subjected to music that you haven’t picked, and don’t like. We’ve written before (twice) about the importance of listening to music that you actually like. That sounds obvious, but some people find typical music-for-productivity unbearably dull, which turns it into a stressful experience.

But we might be wrong! It wouldn’t be the first time. Maybe you only focus when some lyrically-dense hip-hop is on – maybe your designer’s instincts are unleashed by Pantera, or Dido. Who are we to judge?

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