A playlist to make you work better

published 10 Aug 2016

Businessmen, managers, professionals and even students listen to music while they work for various reasons: Their surroundings may be too noisy, or too quiet. Perhaps they want to focus on a challenging task. Draw inspiration for creative ideas. Keep themselves awake. Sustain interest in whatever it is they are doing.

But beware: Scientists say while music can enhance performance and productivity, it can also have the opposite effect: Impair them. Here’s how to make music work for you:

First of all, determine what kind of task is supposed to be completed. Is it repetitive? Does it require processing of words or numbers, analyzing information? Is it creative? What kind of attention is demanded from your mind?

And then look at the music you want to listen to. Are these popular tunes with lyrics that occasion feelings and memories? Are these noisy enough to keep you awake and pumped up? Are they languid ones to sooth your nerves? Will listening compete with the task you have to do, in some way?

We may know this from experience, but experts say that for repetitive tasks that require focus but not much cognitive processing, upbeat music can boost energy and attentiveness.

Food entrepreneur Malou Delgado, for instance, likes singing along to pop tunes and love songs while working in her stall. Rose Salagan, who works from home and needs the extra dose of adrenaline, listens to alternative rock. Mel Panabi goes for techno or house when rushing to meet a tight deadline for his creative design outfit. Rex Sardinia lets his favorite reggae tunes see him through his layout work.

For writing reports, drafting plans, analyzing financials, classical music seems to be the preference of many. Lawyer BG Causing says the music must NOT be something to which she can sing along. High school teacher Tim Francisco listens to Gregorian chants.

Of course, other people have other preferences. Retail executive Cristina Angan listens to rhythm and blues while preparing her reports. Development worker Randee Cabaces prefers blues for serious writing, and scientist Juanito Del Socorro likes revival tunes when filing his technical documents. Joyce Panares prefers rock OPM – Original Pilipino Music – when she has to turn in brief but numerous reports within a short amount of time.

Meanwhile, monotonous, Zen-like background music may promote better performance on creative tasks. Writer Jenny Ortuoste prefers ambient music while finishing her newspaper column; another writer, Nickie Wang, likes new age tunes.

Experts also warn against listening to popular tunes with lyrics when dealing with problem solving, analytical, complex or highly cognitive tasks. Food blogger Connie Veneracion says she resorts to singing and dancing along instead concentrating on her writing. Another writer, Erika Alcasid, says she does not like anything with words when dealing with words, herself.

Still, there are some who say nothing beats silence when it comes to staying focused on what they have to do.

Spotify.com makes the job easier for its subscribers by providing ready-made playlists to suit moods and genres. These playlists contain dozens of pre-chosen songs that fall under any of the categories. Under mood, one can go “sappy or senti,” or “get psyched.” There is music for malling, to celebrate being young and free, and generate positive vibes. There are songs to sing in the shower, boost confidence, occasion good times, feel good, move on, chill out or calm down. For best results, there are playlists called deep focus, Zen focus, peace – anything, really, just take your pick.

Working hard does not have to be such a drag. Music, when thought out and planned for best results, has the potential to make everything better.