20 Jun 2017
20 June, 2017

Music as a productivity booster

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Improving your own productivity is a hot topic lately. Many people are waking up to the notion that there is a lot to gain by being more productive — such as time and money.

Did you know music and sounds influence the modus of your mind?

Maybe you still remember those school days studying while listening to the radio? We learned that radio talk shows didn’t really help us to focus, right? Music featuring lyrics often didn’t help you focus either, because your brain wants to listen to the lyrics while you want to focus on your studying. Maybe you have tried new wave/ relax CDs but those put your mind in a relaxed mode which doesn’t help you to focus, learn and remember. Listening to hard rock and hard trance won’t make you feel at ease but instead fires you up for action. But did you ever play Mozart or Beethoven, both known for composing music that puts your mind in focus modus? You’ve probably read about baroque music that makes your mind receptive to study and focus, and that actually really helps since it puts your mind in alpha status.

What is the best brain wave?

There is a total of five different brain waves. Below is a short overview to give you some understanding what music triggers the state of the mind.

Alpha waves

Alpha waves bridge the gap between our conscious thinking and subconscious mind. This state helps us to calm down when necessary and promotes feelings of deep relaxation. When you encounter high levels of stress, a phenomenon called “alpha blocking” may occur which involves excessive beta activity and very little alpha. Essentially the beta waves “block” out the production of alpha because we become too aroused.

  • Frequency range: 8 Hz to 12 Hz (Moderate)
  • Too much: Daydreaming, inability to focus and too relaxed
  • Too little: Anxiety, high stress and insomnia
  • Optimal: Relaxation
  • Increase alpha waves: Alcohol, relaxants on all forms and some antidepressants

Beta waves

Beta waves are known as high frequency low amplitude that are commonly observed while we are awake. An optimal amount helps you with conscious thought, logical thinking and to complete school or work-based tasks easily. An increase in beta-activity helps you to complete conscious tasks such as critical thinking, writing, reading and socialization.

  • Frequency range: 12 Hz to 40 Hz (High)
  • Too much: Adrenaline, anxiety, high arousal, inability to relax and stress
  • Too little: ADHD, daydreaming, depression and poor cognition
  • Optimal: Conscious focus, memory and problem solving
  • Increase beta waves: Coffee, energy drinks and various stimulants

Theta Waves

The theta waves are most known for the state where one is daydreaming and sleeping. Also during a powernap, the theta waves kick in. Besides, it helps us to experience and feel deep and raw emotions.

  • Frequency range: 4 Hz to 8 Hz (Slow)
  • Too much: ADHD, depression, hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattentiveness
  • Too little: Anxiety, poor emotional awareness and stress
  • Optimal: Creativity, emotional connection, intuition and relaxation
  • Increase theta waves: Depressants

Delta Waves

Delta waves are the slowest recorded brain waves in human beings. They are found most often in infants and young children. As we age, we tend to produce less delta even during deep sleep. These waves are associated with the deepest levels of relaxation and restorative, healing sleep.

· Frequency range: 0 Hz to 4 Hz (Slowest)
· Too much: Brain injuries, learning problems, inability to think and severe ADHD
· Too little: Inability to rejuvenate body, inability to revitalize the brain and poor sleep
· Optimal: Immune system, natural healing, restorative and deep sleep
· Increase delta waves: Depressants and sleep

How can music boost your productivity?

When people are not operating as productive as they are able to, companies leave a lot of money on the table. Typically, many office workers work in open spaces. You know, where your colleagues are talking to each other, people answering calls, coffee machines making a noise, phones ringing, printers and scanners operating, people walking in and out and people asking you questions. No wonder, you can’t focus!

Are you in the right mood?

Pushing out to do’s, preparing a meeting or writing a report, answering emails like a ‘jedi’ or crunching numbers are not easy tasks. To do these things you should have the right mood and mind-set. Music and sounds help you to get in the right mood.

What you’ll basically need is an in-ear headset or an ear covering headphone. You need to get yourself detached from what is happening around you and in the environment where you are. Tell your co-workers that you need to focus and that you’ll be offline for at least 30 minutes, don’t let them interrupt you.
Why 30 minutes? Have a look at the Pomodoro Technique. From my personal experience, I recommend using headphones in combination with the Pomodoro Technique.

What music or sound do you need to play to focus?

Below I’ve listed a few free/ low cost streaming and app services available:

  • Simply Noise: Solve distraction in a very noisy office by listing to different noise types
  • Coffitivity: Do you need inspiration and you’re not in your favourite coffee place to work: This app gives you the experience from your favourite coffee house
  • Rainymood: Depending on whether you live in a country with a lot of rain or not, go to rainymood to have a soothing rain sound that calms you down.
  • Osmosis: Do you want more peace of mind? Be creative with this DIY mixing of sounds
  • Calm: If you want to lower your stress the app Calm can really help with campfire, snowfall and ocean sounds, to name a few
  • Noisli: Choose between productivity or relaxing ambient sounds to help you to focus

Spotify, Apple Music or Soundcloud?

My suggestion is, play around with music services and see what works best for you.

You can use Sound Cloud or Apple Music to find playlists. Another suggestion would be the focus mood playlists on Spotify; be sure to have a premium subscription to avoid obstructions of your thinking by the ads. You can find these playlists under Genre & Moods and then select Focus. Play around with the different playlists and see what gets you in your zone.

In my next article, I will review the streaming app: Brain.fm. This paid music streaming service and app is based on science to improve your mental state.

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