Written by Lori Thiessen

If you ask any teenager or university student chances are they will tell you that the MP3 player is an essential part of their study regime. It helps them to focus, they claim, though parents may disagree.

Did you say the same thing when you were in high school or university? Is it still true for you today?

For my own part, there are times when complete quiet is essential for me to get on with part of a project.  I need to be able to listen to all parts of my brain as the cells chatter away about the work at hand. I never know when a neurotransmitter may come up with a really great idea.

Sometimes if I’m in a crowded cafe, my trusty MP3 player provides the necessary sound buffer so  I can concentrate on the immediate task.

So if music is a concentration booster, and ergo a productivity booster, then does it matter what kind of music you listen to?

There are many theories about this but the main one points to the tunes of long-dead white guys, e.g. classical music.  Mozart is usually pulled out of the hat as the uber-musician for increasing productivity.  <sarcasm mode on>Wouldn’t he be proud to know that?<sarcasm mode off>

In some ways, I’m a bit disgusted at the ways in which employers or success coaches try to co-opt beautiful works of music as profit improving props. Music needs to be enjoyed for itself alone, too. To focus on the piece itself is to appreciate and respect the talent of the composer. How would you like it if the client read the report you slaved over for days possibly weeks while watching TV?

So I encourage to take some time out to listen to a piece just for its own sake.  Put on Mozart’s Requiem, close your eyes and just listen.  It’s worth it.

But I digress.

A friend of mine who came from China said that he couldn’t listen to any pieces that had singing in them because he would become distracted over trying to figure out what they were saying. He was trying to improve his English at the time so anything language related kind of stressed him out.

Personally, I think the music that is most effective for improving focus varies from person to person and over time for the individual.

I used to be able to listen to hard rock and do my homework assignments without a problem. Hard rock now just brings in a flood of memories that squashes my attention span. Nothing makes me feel older quicker than hearing a tune from my high school days being played on the oldies radio station. Sigh.

Classical music, particularly medieval music, puts me in a meditative state which, depending on what I’m doing, can be beneficial. At other times, I just zone out. I’m lost in the beauty of the piece.

Since Christmas is coming pretty fast, I’m listening to… you guessed it, Christmas music. I must say, I am bopping around to Rocking Around the Christmas Tree and getting stuff done.

And that’s the point:  getting stuff done.

Whatever kind of music helps you to get stuff done, whether its heavy metal, hard rock, country, rap, classical or the cheery ditties of Fred Penner, it’s the right music for you.

Q: So what kind of music helps you get stuff done?

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!