Various studies have been done, and my own personal experience has clearly shown, that music has a very real effect on your work.
Grocery stores determined a very long time ago that if they played slow music in their stores, people bought more. Why? Because slow music slows you down. Shoppers slowed down, took more time, looked at more things, and we all know what happens when you look at more things while you shop, don’t we? You buy more stuff. This is what happens when stores play slower music.
Just to confirm this, grocery stores have experimented with faster-playing top 40 music in stores. Guess what happened? Shoppers moved faster through the store, and bought less.
Restaurants have run similar experiments with similar results.
Speeding Up Your Work
This is valuable information for you. If want to get more work done faster, put on some fast-tempo music while you work. You’ll actually work faster and productivity will increase. There’s a few caveats to this however:
1. It’s best if you have fast-paced music with no lyrics or singing. Lyrics can distract you and overwhelm your subconscious while you’re working. I have found the best productivity music to listen to is fast-paced classical music (action movie soundtracks are the best in my opinion) or fast-paced techno music with no singing.
2. The volume should be very low. Just enough to hear, but no more. Yes, there are some people out there who can work just fine with loud music blasting in their ears, but those are the exceptions to the rule. If the music is at a decent volume it will distract from your work. Ideally the volume should be just barely audible.
3. The downside to listening to this kind of music while you work is that if you’re not careful, you’ll make more mistakes because you’ll be moving faster. Following the two rules above (no lyrics and very low volume) will alleviate this
Let’s say your goal is not to work faster, but to work more methodically and reduce mistakes. Various studies have shown that when certain classical composers like Mozart are piped in through office speakers, the amount of mistakes office workers make goes down by 18 percent or more. It doesn’t make them work any faster or slower, but it does reduce their mistakes.
You can use both of these methods. When I’m involved in detail work, I will turn on quiet Mozart in the background. When I want to be in work-burst mode, I’ll turn on some fast-paced movie soundtrack or techno song, turn the volume way down but still enough to hear, set a timer for one hour, put my head down, and work. After an hour I’ll either keep going or take a quick break and work another hour.
When I want to do creative work, like writing, I don’t like any music at all. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s very hard for me to creatively write with music going. When everything is silent is when I write best. However everyone is different. George Lucas wrote the original Star Wars screenplay while listening to classical music blasting in the background.
Regardless, use music to your advantage when you work. It makes a huge difference.