I’ve heard college students and even business professionals claim that listening to music while working made them more productive. While it’s true that music can lift your mood and give you a relaxed focus, it can also decrease your performance on cognitively demanding tasks.
So when can music improve performance? Annie Murphy Paul, in an article in Time.com, wrote “Music can improve performance when a well-practiced expert needs to achieve the relaxed focus necessary to execute a job he’s done many times before.” For example, surgeons often listen to music while they’re performing surgeries and they’re more effective.
The irony, however, is that while the surgeons’ preferred music helped them, the music was distracting to others who work alongside them, such as the anesthetists.
When you are doing repetitive or routine tasks (e.g., folding laundry or filing papers), listening to music can make it less boring. But when you need to perform cognitively demanding tasks, music can actually be distracting. What’s more, singing along to the music may further increase the distraction.
The message is this:
“When you need to give learning and remembering your full attention, silence is golden.” -Annie Murphy Paul
Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership + Talent Development Advisor
TIME.com – Listening to Music While Working: Does It Hamper Productivity?