Music & Personal Productivity: This Is Your Job on Music

February 5, 2011 · 4 comments

by mariarainier

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When you work from home as a blogger or freelance writer, you have a lot more control over your work environment than you would if you worked for an on-site company. That can either be a blessing or a curse – it’s easy to let the lack of structure negatively affect your productivity, but with a little effort, you can reverse that phenomenon and make working at home work for you. One simple part of making that effort is to engage yourself, get focused, and build energy by listening to music.

Researchers have proven the amazing effects of music on the brain. It’s one of the few stimulants that engage both hemispheres of your brain, improving your ability to switch between left-brain and right-brain tasks. Ronald Berk of Johns Hopkins University states that music is an obvious choice in terms of finding a tool to engage both hemispheres of your brain. However, there are also benefits to stimulating just one hemisphere of the brain for specific tasks. The following tips will help you decide what to listen to when you’re using the left, right, or both hemispheres of your brain at work.


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Left-Brain Tasks & Music

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How do you know which hemisphere of your brain is in control when you’re doing certain tasks? Fortunately, Berk has the answers with some research on hemisphere activity. He writes that the left hemisphere is logical and analytical, making it responsible for processing information sequentially in applications like mathematics, logic, and language. It’s also referred to as the verbal side and is structured, factual, controlled, rational, organized, planned, and objective. So as a writer, when you’re engaged with the structure and function of language, you’re predominantly using the left hemisphere of your brain. Editing, proofreading, studying sentence structure, and analyzing grammar are all examples of left-hemisphere activities.

To improve the function of your left-hemisphere brain activity, Berk recommends that you listen to fast, up-tempo music in major keys. It’s also important to use background music that’s unfamiliar to you. Most people start focusing on music instead of work when they recognize a song or piece, so having a long list of new-to-you classical pieces can help you immeasurably. The easiest way to make this happen is to listen to a classical radio station, which you can easily do online. My personal favorite is theclassicalstation.org, which enables you to listen online, via satellite or cable, on partner stations, or on FM radio. You can also use Pandora to generate music that’s similar to a certain piece of music. For example, you could create a station that’s based entirely on Chopin’s Prelude No. 3 in G Major for some fast-tempo music that’s sure to stimulate the left hemisphere of your brain. The majority of solo piano repertoire composed by Mozart, Handel, and Haydn also fits into this category and is easy to find.

Right-Brain Tasks & Music

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Where the left hemisphere of the brain is strictly logical, the right hemisphere is exactly the opposite: nonverbal, creative, spontaneous, emotional, disorganized, experimental, empathetic, subjective, intuitive, and relational. It focuses on art, color, pictures, music, and how different objects and/or ideas might be connected. Studies cited by Berk demonstrate that if you’re reading, studying, reflecting, or engaging in creative pursuits, you can benefit from slow music in minor keys. This produces Alpha brain waves, which put you into a relaxed state of awareness and help you to commit content to memory more effectively. When you’re reading for information or collecting sources, music of this type can be particularly helpful. It can also help you maintain your focus and concentration, especially if you listen to slow Baroque-style music – this has been proven effective in the classroom and should translate well to working from home as a freelance writer or blogger.

When using the right hemisphere of your brain for most tasks, you can make a separate Pandora station for slow music in minor keys or purchase recordings of this type of music. You can also try listening to a classical radio station, but there’s no guarantee that the playlist will include mostly slow pieces, so it’s less likely to give you exactly what you want. Try to find music that’s similar to one or more of the following pieces:

  • Chopin’s Nocturne in C Minor, Op. 48 No. 1
  • Brahms’ Piano Quartet No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 60
  • Mompou’s Paisajes: 2. El Largo
  • Shostakovich’s 2 Pieces for String Quartet: 1. Elegy

Play this music in the background as you work to create a stimulating and enjoyable environment that will help you get your job done, reduce stress, and energize your brain.

Berk, R. A. “Music and music technology in college teaching: Classical to hip hop across

the curriculum.” International Journal of Technology in Teaching and Learning 4.1 (2008): 45–67.

Author : Maria Rainier

Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education where she’s been researching both the highest paying jobs and the lowest paying jobs on the market. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave Grimes II February 7, 2011 at 7:43 am

I really enjoyed this. Finding just the right music for accomplishing a given task is, sometimes, just as hard as the task. Whether I’m going out for a run, writing a blog post, or editing video… I have my favorites. Here’s a few:

Exercising – Any professional wrestler’s entrance theme. (No wonder they walk to the ring with that stuff playing!)
Writing a blog – Blue Man Group’s “Audio” album. (Instrumental stuff does the best job of engaging my mind, while not distracting me.)
Video editing – Barenaked Ladies (Note: Only when editing video without audio… otherwise lose the background chatter and focus!)
Washing the dishes – “Weird Al” Yankovic. What can I say, he’s the greatest!

Anyhow, hopefully some other folks will respond with their recommendations, as I’m always looking to expand my playlists!

Reply

Lars February 7, 2011 at 8:23 am

Hi Dave
Thanks a lot for your valuable comment. Your picks are excellent 😉

Reply

Ralph February 5, 2011 at 5:58 pm

So true! Soma FM’s Groove Salad on all day.

Reply

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