When we think of studying or working, we picture quiet, peaceful environments with zero distractions. Yes, silent libraries full of dedicated students and tidy bedrooms with ample desk space come to mind—but sometimes such conditions aren’t always practical, or even ideal.
It’s time to forget everything you’ve ever learned about how to study and work. You may be surprised to know that the key to concentration might actually be found in your Spotify playlist.
Research shows that listening to music can be highly beneficial for studying and working. Specifically, repetitive, instrumental songs, or music that you’re familiar with. The advantages are many—an improved mood, better concentration, and an increase in much-needed motivation are just a few. Read on to discover the eight ways that music helps your productivity.
- Find your creative flow
In 2017, the peer-reviewed scientific journal PLOS One conducted a study on music and creativity. They found that upbeat classical music can actually stimulate divergent, out-of-the box thinking. When listening to happy music, participants were able to think more flexibly as their mood was boosted.
Listening to energetic, engaging music can help stimulate several areas of the brain at once. Get those creative juices flowing by playing songs with 60 to 80 beats per minute.
- Pace your studying with steady beats
Did you know that music with a continuous, repetitive rhythm can help you work faster? Your brain subconsciously matches the pace of the music in order to keep up with the beat. But make sure that the music you pick is instrumental, as listening to lyrics can be just as distracting as having a conversation.
Additionally, listening to music can help pass the time without you even noticing. When you pace your studies or work by listening to music, you’re less inclined to look at the clock. But make sure the songs aren’t too fast, or it’ll be difficult to focus.
- Use music to structure your tasks
Whether you’re studying or working, it’s essential that you take breaks from time to time. In fact, studies suggest that short breaks every 45 minutes are optimal. And guess what else lasts for around 45 minutes? Most albums.
Why not time your study breaks to your music? That way you’ll be reminded to stop after each album and take a few minutes to disconnect.
- Drown out distractions with different sounds
Studying or working at home can be synonymous with distraction. Maybe you have noisy roommates or there’s construction work in your building. Perhaps you can’t stop thinking about your plans for the weekend or the movie you saw last week.
Whether the distraction is external or internal, you can use music to help you focus and get back on track.
Top tip: Wear headphones to politely tell your roommates or colleagues that you’re concentrating.
- Use music to boost your mood
It’s no coincidence that we associate songs with different memories and phases of our lives. When we’re sad, we listen to music in a minor key so that we can wallow. And during moments of celebration, it’s common to listen to happy, upbeat songs to get us into a dancing mood.
So why should it be any different with studying? Pick a playlist that makes you feel elated and positive, and listen to it when you’re at your desk. Listening to happy music causes the brain to release the feel-good chemical dopamine, which helps you feel motivated and see tasks as much more achievable. Who knows? You might even look forward to studying if you associate it with fun music.
- Swap songs with friends
Sure, studying alone has major benefits. But it’s also comforting to know that your friends are in the same boat as you every once in a while. Why not swap study music recommendations with your friends and colleagues? It’ll help you take much-needed socializing breaks, and it can also generate a great team feeling among your peers.
- Enhance your memory through music
Not only does music boost your mood and help you focus, but research shows that it can actually strengthen your memory, too. That’s partly because listening to music “involves the memory centers in the brain, such as the hippocampus and lowest parts of the frontal lobe.” The activity also stimulates both the left and right hemispheres of the brain at the same time, which can optimize information retention and memory.
- Use music to release stress and keep anxiety at bay
The pressure of exams or impending deadlines at work is very real. It’s a bit of a catch-22—stress is detrimental to studying, but also almost impossible to avoid.
Why not use music as a therapeutic tool for stress-free studying? Listening to calming music can have excellent effects on your body, including decreasing your heart rate and helping you feel more empowered and relaxed.
Whether you’re preparing for exams, collaborating on a group project or working from home, music might just be your new favorite way to focus. Set some time aside to create a playlist. You can either go for songs that keep you 100% on track, or start off slowly and gradually build up to peak productivity.