Does Music Actually Hinder Your Productivity?


Study sessions, assignments, and workdays are often completed with earphones in place, music blasting. Nowadays, music is a common accompaniment to most everyday tasks, particularly for uni students and Gen Y workers, but how does bopping along to our favourite tunes influence the work we do?

Music helps with repetitive tasks

If your job or the task you are completing is repetitive in nature, involving an ongoing repeated process that you know well, then music can actually help you work. Music releases chemicals in your brain such as dopamine, which makes it easier to get along with colleagues or complete boring tasks as you feel happier.

There is also evidence that listening to music while competing the same task over and over can actually improve your accuracy and efficiency. So anyone in data entry roles rejoice! Music is your new work BFF.

Music helps drown out a noisy environment

Trying to work or study in a noisy environment means your brain has to process a cacophony of information while focusing on whatever task you are completing. If this sounds like your workplace or study zone, then music may help. Music minimises this incoming information to a singular source, making it easier for your brain to process these incoming sources of distraction, and focus on the task you’re trying to complete.

And again, music improves your mood which is always a bonus!

If you are thinking of grabbing those headphones and diving right in to your very own at-work mix tape, just remember that new music which you may not have heard before takes more brain power to process than songs that you know well. Each new track brings with it new surprises in terms of lyrics, beat, and rhythm so your brain can’t expect what’s coming next. So if you’re looking to jam out to some hot tracks while at work, be sure to create a playlist full of hits that you know well.

Listening to music while trying to learn is not helpful

One of the main downfalls to listening to music while you work or study, is that it can limit the amount of information your brain can take in at any one time. This means that if you’re cramming for a big exam, or looking to learn a new skill at work, music is likely to be more of a hindrance than a saviour.

Music, especially songs with lyrics, divides your brain power between focusing on the tune and picking up on new information. If you’re trying to learn something, particularly by listening, reading, or watching a teaching source, then music will only make it more difficult for your brain to process any information you’re trying to input, making it more difficult to retain new knowledge.

So basically, music can be totally great but you need to make sure you’re only really using it during times of repetition or to drown out outward distractions. If you really need to ace an assignment, teach yourself a new skill, or complete highly complicated tasks, then maybe going headphone-free is the way to go.

Besides, even if you can’t listen to music while you’re working at home smashing out an assignment, working on something important for work, or cramming for an exam, a quick 10 minute dance break can be a nice treat amidst an otherwise potentially stressful task. Best of both worlds!

Featured image courtesy of Unsplash.

(Information sourced from ‘What Listening to Music at Work Does to Your Brain (It’s Pretty Amazing)’ by Tom Popomarinos, and ‘How Music Affects Your Productivity’ by Gregory Ciotti).

By Mia Casey

By Mia Casey


Mia is a Sydney-based copywriter and content creator, who ran the UTS Careers Blog for five years since its conception in 2016.
Her freelance work focuses on branding development and helping companies create a cohesive identity narrative tailored for each of their platforms.
She enjoys piña coladas and getting caught in the rain.