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Should You Listen to Music While You Work?

You’ll likely get more done, if it’s the right music. You can improve motivation, reduce distractions, and improve productivity with music… both at work and at home.

02-11 Februrary Daffodil

Improve Motivation

Feeling blue? Having a bad day? Music can lift your spirits.

With music and better spirits, you’ll have the extra added benefit of improved motivation (and therefore, improved productivity).

You can increase staff morale (motivation, productivity) by allowing people to listen to music they like that works for them.

Obviously, unless everyone enjoys the same music, then earbuds or headphones make sense in open offices.

Reduce Distractions

Our neighbors were having their trees trimmed the other day. Chain saws and wood chippers.

Usually I listen to Coffitivity and Pandora through desktop speakers. That day, earbuds. Major improvement.

Also distracting: ringing phones, office colleagues on the phone, or “hallway” conversations outside your cube.

Music can mute or eliminate background sounds so that you can concentrate. Better concentration = better productivity.

For tasks that require the most concentration, music can be a distracter by itself. That’s when you’ll do better with no music at all. If even the most ambient-sounding music is too much, then nature sounds might work.


Although music with a faster beat makes me walk faster, I usually listen to podcasts while I’m walking. I know that I’m giving up intensity for information. But I’ve consciously traded walking a little slower for the reward of listening to favorite podcasts.

Still, want to walk or run faster? Lift more? Listen to music with just the right beat. You can have a more intense workout in the same amount of time.


For tasks like calculating, planning, translating, or writing, you will probably have better results listening to music without lyrics. Depending on the music, you can:

  • Increase productivity, sales, curiosity, creativity
  • Improve mood, quality of work
  • Reduce anxiety (for extroverts, not so much for introverts)
  • Ease or enhance tension (depending on your preference)

Music with lyrics can reduce attention and performance.

I have a Pandora station that’s just for writing (based on “Up18north,” by Kruger Brothers). I listen to slightly peppier (but not too distracting) music for doing boring financial tasks. For walking, I listen to music with a strong beat or my current favorite podcast. I even have a playlist for napping. (Your best results will vary, but experimenting can help to find out what works best for you.)

When you choose specific music for particular tasks, you start to associate its sounds with those tasks. Over time, the music can trigger focusing on the task that you’ve chosen. Listening to music can be reinforcing, therefore motivating, and likely, good for productivity.


Post | Cho, M. (2014). Listen While You Work: What Music Does to Your Productivity

Article | Padnani, A. (2012). The Power of Music, Tapped in a Cubicle

Post | Palmer, A. (2012). Study: Workplace Music Boosts Productivity

Post | Paul, A. M. (2012). Does Listening to Music While Working Make You Less Productive?

Post | Roque, C. (2010). Can Listening to Music Boost Your Productivity?

Post | (2013). Listening to Music: Boosting or Reducing Work Productivity?

Post | Todoist Team (2013). How Music Affects Productivity

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