Music for Work Focus and Productivity: 3 Takeaways from Spiritune and Caveday

Issue # 
July 26, 2022

Spiritune recently joined forces with Caveday for a music-infused deep dive, where Spiritune's founder Jamie Pabst joined Caveday's co-founder Molly Songsteng to discuss how science-based music can help with work focus and productivity.  The discussion was followed by a 45 minute deep focus session in “the cave,” where guests dove into deep work using Spiritune’s work focus music personalized to their individual emotional state to promote a deeper level of focused attention.  In the initial conversation, Jamie and Molly dove into the science of music and why music extends far beyond a source of pleasure, and why certain music that can assist with focus, productivity and ultimately enable us to get our most important work done in our day.  Find below three main takeaways from the discussion: 

1. Music and the Mental Response

Increasingly people are turning to music as an accessible tool to help boost productivity and concentration levels at work, because concentration is not always easy to come by these days. Some days we feel keyed in, and other days we find our mind wandering and getting preoccupied by every nearby distraction. Music might just be the answer for helping get in the zone - and stay there - to complete tasks more productively and efficiently. 

Music not only enhances but also induces certain mental states. Time and again, research shows how highly sensitive the brain is to auditory stimuli. Music has a unique capacity to activate neural networks that underlie our responses to stress, pain, reward, and more. Therefore, music has great capacity to help us reach a state of mental focus to assist us in completing tasks productively and efficiently.

For instance, have you ever noticed that a challenging workout becomes more enjoyable with the addition of music? This isn’t simply because you’ve chosen tunes you like, but because the music triggers a mental response in your brain that releases endorphins such as dopamine that make you feel good. Even during a strenuous workout, the right music can override sensory pathways that would normally make you feel too tired or uncomfortable to continue. So, with the right music, you could potentially be able to continue exercising for a prolonged period of time and with greater intensity. 

In the case of music for focus, the right type of music can help reduce stress and anxiety, which can help calm your nerves and reduce brain chatter, ultimately helping you to absorb information and stay focused more easily.  The right music also stimulates and engages the brain in such a way that can shift your mood and provide a rhythm that keeps you alert and energized enough to accomplish your work tasks.  Lastly, because the right type of music delivers pleasant auditory stimuli, it makes your work tasks more engaging and less dull, ultimately allowing you to stay focused and get more done.

2. Choice of Music Matters

Music affects people in different ways. While some may be less sensitive to its pleasurable effects (musical anhedonia), others are highly responsive to all sounds (hyper-hedonic). Most of us sit on the spectrum somewhere between these two extremes. So while it’s important to be aware of how sensitive you are to music or any auditory stimuli, it’s also very important to understand that the type of music you’re listening to will affect your focus and productivity levels greatly.  To put it simply, not all music is created equal, and the type of music you listen to is key to achieving a state of focus while you’re at work.

When selecting music for the workday, it can feel natural for you to reach for your favorite playlists. Like old friends, we know these beloved tunes are always there for us. However, while these songs might be great for picking up your mood or giving you a boost of energy, they might be less than ideal for helping to create an optimal work environment.

What’s the reason for this? One reason is that your favorite songs simply excite or engage your brain too much because they have a thick texture. Rather than helping you focus on the task at hand, you may find yourself singing along to the familiar words, humming the melody, and tapping your feet to the beat - if not completely getting pulled into an all-out dance sesh because the song is so engaging that you cannot help but shift your attention towards the music instead of your work. Musical texture (or event density) can be thought of in terms of the complexity of the composition - lyrics, overlapping instruments, and key changes, etc. The more event dense the music, the more attention-grabbing it is. For instance, pop music often has a thick texture to capture and maintain our attention with its catchy sounds and hooks. 

When it comes to picking pieces for maximum concentration, unfamiliar music with a very defined set of musical characteristics is likely to do best. Such tunes can create sufficient auditory stimulation that help to activate the right kind of mental response without getting you too involved in the song. 

3. Music is Not One Size Fits All 

While low event density music is best for focus, the exact kind of music that will be most effective in optimizing your work productivity depends very much on the individual. Every person is unique, not just in terms of what their brain responds to, but the kind of mental state that enhances their workflow. A coffee-obsessed nation might assume that getting hyped up is the key to getting stuff done, but often people work best in a calmer, more mellow mood. That’s why there is no single playlist that works for all. 

And turning to particular genres is not necessarily the answer either. The long-standing idea that classical music holds the key to enhancing mental performance has been debunked. It turns out it's not the style of music that has the most effect on shifting mental states. Rather, it’s the specific elements within the composition, such as its timbre, rhythm, and tempo, that the brain responds to. 

Using music to enhance focus requires finding the right collection of musical elements that specifically matches your emotional state and the type of work you’re trying to get done. And sure, with trial and error, you may just land on the right music that floats your boat and ignites your mental power. But leaving things to trial and error is rarely a great approach.

Supercharge Your Mental Aptitude With Spiritune

Here at Spiritune, we have a better way.

Spiritune dedicates its mission to harnessing a scientific approach to the application of music in the workplace and beyond. Our musical compositions have been carefully researched and are clinically informed to help transition through certain emotional states and guide you towards targeted goals such as enhancing workflow. 

Our playlists are highly personalized to cater to the unique needs and distinctions of the individual. On your journey towards creating your perfect, personalized soundtrack to unleash greater mental productivity, we take you through a series of short prompts to get to know you and your goals better before we match your music to those goals.

So, all you need to do is pop on your headphones and press play to a more productive day.

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