How to Successfully Use Sound for Productivity

graphical representation of a sound wave in blue on a black background.

Tips for choosing the right soundtrack for your to-do list.

The office is a noisy place. Your co-workers are chatting. Phones are ringing. As a result, you’re sometimes not getting much done. Often the best way to focus is to fight sound with sound — by donning your headphones to drown out the distracting noises. But are some forms of music more conducive to getting work done than others?

Scientists have long studied the effects of music on productivity. One study conducted by Teresa Lesiuk, called “The Effect of Music Listening on Work Performance,” concluded that individuals who listen to music at work are more positive and more productive. There’s actually a business case for it as well — MusicWorks conducted a survey of over 1,000 small- and medium-sized businesses, and about 77 percent said music in the workplace makes employees more productive, and 40 percent said they believe music can help increase sales. 

That being said, what style of music is most effective varies based on what type of task you are trying to complete, as well as on personal preference. So, to help you find that perfect productive jam no matter what you’re doing, we combed through the research and compiled some advice for choosing the right sound to help sharpen your focus, relax the mind and overpower office distractions. We’re sure your terrifying to-do list will thank us.

Motivate Your Mornings With Memorable Melodies

Between finding a wrinkle-free outfit, navigating commuter traffic and just making time to eat a bowl of cereal, mornings have the potential to be extremely stressful. Spend a few minutes each morning listening to some familiar favorites to reduce that morning anxiety and get your creative juices flowing before you even take a seat at your desk. 

Even the New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin, says that the simplest way to boost your mood is by throwing on one of your favorite songs. So, whether your go-to music is Kenny Chesney, Beyoncé or Metallica, spend a few minutes each morning listening to the songs you love. Your clients, co-workers and friends will appreciate your positivity each morning.

Adhere Your Attention With Acoustic Ambiance

To remain productive during detail-oriented pursuits, studies show that moderately toned, instrumental music is the most effective for drowning out the office calamity and sparking creativity. During his TED Talk, Julien Treasure, the founder of The Sound Agency, described his research on the direct effect of sound on our body's functionality. It is nearly impossible for us to focus on the words from two different auditory sources at the same time, making it difficult to concentrate while listening to lyrical music.

For instance, if you are preparing a new client presentation or writing up a claim, instrumental music helps to excite, motivate and eliminate distraction in an open office setting. Mozart is not your only option! Check out electronic, country, jazz, classical or upbeat music, as long as it is not obtrusive.

A specific genre, whether acoustic guitar or deep house, isn’t as important as music with the right tonality. Especially high or low tones should be avoided; however, mellow sounding background music is your key to success. Use one of the many free music streaming applications to find what genre you fancy—you can even find instrumental music tailored to the office environment.

Tackle Tedious Tasks With Throwback Tunes

Let's face it, not all the work we do requires complete concentration. We're all familiar with thrilling tasks like filing papers, reading through emails after vacation or dealing with that time-consuming spreadsheet. Music can make those tasks more enjoyable and help you complete them more quickly.

With tedious tasks, familiarity is key. Research from a study by professors at the University of Birmingham explains that new music is surprising and tends to become our brain's main focus, whereas recognizable sounds do not distract us from working hard. So, yes, there is actually a work-related reason to throw on your favorite old-school jams. (If your boss asks, you can tell him or her we said so.)

Have any additional productive music suggestions you’d recommend? Please let us know at Facebook ( and Twitter (@InsureMyPath).