The 7 Best Music Playlists for Productivity, According to Science


Shortly after I started at HubSpot, I was greeted with a new pair of orange noise canceling headphones. At the time, I had no idea these headphones would carry me through long working days and some of the deepest, darkest levels of writer’s block.

Over three years later, they truly are the gift that keeps on giving.

You see, for me, listening to music while working is the secret to my productivity. All it takes is the right Beyoncé song, and I go from inactivity to ultra productive. (Seriously, it works like a charm.)

The problem is, finding the perfect playlist isn’t always easy. With endless music streaming possibilities at your fingertips, it can be difficult to determine only the right pieces to spin the wheels. So, I did what we do best here – a little research.

In fact, there are a ton of studies that explore the influence of specific types of music on your productivity levels.

To help you find the right mix, we’ve found and curated seven Spotify playlists designed with specific studies in mind. Whether you like Mozart or Chance The Rapper, we’re sure there’s something on this list that will do.

To note: Some playlists contain tracks with explicit language that might not be suitable for the office.

7 science-backed desktop music playlists for productivity

1. Classical music

One of the most frequently cited studies on music and productivity is the “Mozart effect,“who concluded that listening to Mozart for even a brief period each day can stimulate” the capacity for abstract reasoning. “

The study – led by researchers Gordon Shaw, Frances Rauscher, and Katherine Ky – employed 36 Cal-Irvine students who were divided into three groups. Group one listened to a selection of Mozart’s, while group two listened to a relaxation tape and group three endured 10 minutes of silence.

After the listening activity, all 36 students received the same test, in which the Mozart group recorded on average an eight to nine point increase in their IQ, compared to the other groups.

Since then, the “Mozart effect” has been strongly contested, but many researchers have continued to explore the mental benefits of learning and listening to classical music. A recent study, for example, found that elementary school-aged children who participated in teaching music composition outperformed students in a control group on reading comprehension.

Think classical music might work for you? Check out this classic-influenced playlist to find out for yourself:

2. Video game soundtracks

“Choosing the right video game soundtrack to work on is all about understanding what kind of music motivates or distracts you when you need to focus,” says HubSpot’s vice president of acquisitions (and former game marketing consultant video) Emmy jonassen.

“For example, if you’re the type who gets amplified and focused while listening to high-energy music, rhythmic game soundtracks, like those by Thumper or Klang, might work well. Conversely, if you need calm to focus, the serene soundtracks of Exploration games, like ABZÛ and Journey, can do the trick. With thousands of games released each year, including many indie titles, there’s a soundtrack to suit. to everyone’s ears, ”she continued.

Think about it: playing a video game requires a lot of concentration. To move to the next level, players usually need to dodge traps, dodge obstacles, and uncover secret tools that will help them move to the next level. As a result, the the selection of music for video games is often very strategic, in that modern soundtracks tend to reflect epic and inspiring cinematic scores rather than just basic sound effects.

And although studies have found mixed results, there is evidence that gamers can experience improved performance when playing a game with the volume turned on.

For example, when psychology professor Siu-Lan Tan and her colleagues John Baxa and Matt Spackman took a particular interest in the game “Twilight Princess (Legend of Zelda)”, they found that participants who performed with music and sound effects disabled executed worst than those who have played with.

Do you want to try it on for size? Check out the playlist below:

3. Sounds of nature

Based on psychophysical data and sound field analysis published in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, listening to “natural” sounds may improve cognitive functioning, optimize your ability to concentrate and increase your level of satisfaction.

Think: crashing waves, chirping birds, flowing streams, etc.

This could explain why more brands aimed at consumers Google home most recent Noisli – introduce such features of ambient sound to help listeners relax or concentrate. It could also be behind Spotify’s multiple nature-themed playlists, like this soothing one:

4. Pump Up Songs

After observing that many athletes arrived at the stadium with headphones on, Kellogg School of Management professor Derek Rucker and three of his colleagues – Loran Nordgren, Li Huang and Adam Galinsky – set out to answer the question: law kind of music makes us feel more powerful or in control?

Thus, in 2014, the group of researchers set up a to study to assess how music can influence motivation and subsequent behavior. First, they played several songs for the participants in a lab and asked them – on a scale of one to seven – how powerful, dominant and determined they felt after listening to each song. There were three “High Power” winners: Queen’s “We Will Rock You”, 2 Unlimited “Get Ready for This” and 50 Cent “In Da Club”.

Next, to assess the influence of music on their behavior, they asked participants to listen to the music and then decide whether or not they would like to go first or second in a debate. In fact, those who listened to the high powered playlist volunteered to come first almost twice as often as those who listened to a less powerful playlist.

Lesson? “Just like professional athletes can put on some uplifting music before they hit the pitch to put them in a powerful frame of mind,” Rucker explained, “you could try [this] in certain situations where you want to be empowered. “

The next time you’re looking to feel empowered before a big party, interview, or salary review, take a look at this roundup:

Want more? Discover the choices of my colleague Amanda Zantal-Wiener here.

5. Instrumental songs

In 2015, Middle Tennessee State University researchers Carol A. Smith and Larry W. Morris discovered that students who listened to “sedative” music during a test scored higher than those who listened to lyrical music. (This contrasts somewhat with their initial results 39 years earlier, which showed that while music did not show an impact on test scores, those who listened to “uplifting music” showed a significant increase in worry and very emotional reactions.

That’s not to say that it’s entirely impossible to cross things off your list while listening to songs with words – I actually prefer lyrical music, but my colleague, Amanda Zantal-Wiener, joked about some hip hop verse that accidentally crept into her first drafts when listening to songs with words. If you’re like her and find the lyrics too distracting, there are a few instrument options that you can try out.

For those times, check out these wordless tunes – we promise they won’t put you to sleep:

6. “Feel Good” songs

Buried on time? Trying to dig yourself out of a mountain of emails after a while? No matter what bothers you, sometimes the best cure for lost productivity is a healthy dose of “feel good” melodies – you know, the ones that make you spontaneously use a pen as a pantomimic microphone.

But scientifically speaking, music can stimulate the same part of the brain as delicious food and other physical pleasures. Researchers at mcgill university, for example, found that when participants were given the opioid production-blocking drug naltrexone, they did not respond as positively to their favorite songs as they normally could.

The verdict? Our brains are trained to naturally produce these chemicals when we hear our favorite playlist.

And while “feel good” songs vary from person to person, a search for Spotify playlists with those same keywords returns dozens of results. That said, here is one of our favorites:

Don’t have enough? Here are some additional suggestions from my colleague Amanda.

7. White noise

According to a to study led by Yamaguchi University, “When performing intellectual activities involving memory or arithmetic tasks, it is common for noise to cause an increased psychological feeling of ‘annoyance’, leading to decreased performance.”

Whether you’re working remotely with roommates or working in an office with loud colleagues, it can be difficult to focus on the conversations going on around you. Neutral, non-verbal background sounds like white noise, which are not the same as nature sounds, can help block out these distractions – things like the din of a restaurant or mall, a electric fan or even washing machines.

And in case you were wondering – yes. Like all of the above, there is a playlist for that:

So go ahead – focus, get pumped, feel good, and get moving.

What are your favorite songs to work with? Let us know in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in March 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and completeness.

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