Time is money. Time is music. Time is work. Music comes alive with rhythm and beat. Work has time frames and deadlines. So much of our music conveys the urgency, fast pace, and unstoppable momentum that infuses our lives and work environment. You would think that music + listener = productivity, but too many variables prevent us from finding the best productive fit for each individual.

The best music for your productivity depends entirely on what you need. If you are just looking for an increase in energy without needing the mind, then loud and fast might be the way to go. Just like sugar, music can increase heart rate, elevate mood, and get one into the groove. The music in clubs and many shopping malls are set to an optimum tempo to keep you pumped without going too fast, riding the razor’s edge of stimulation.

But if you need your mind to think, then you should realize that music activates a vast amount of the brain and hampers your ability to recall. The bad news? Listening to your favorite music actually makes recall worse.

The fact of the matter is that we can only truly concentrate on one thing at any given time. Shifting attention from one thing to another leads to attention fatigue, a killer of productivity.

Let’s say you have 100 credits of attention to devote to a project. Listening to music is going to take up a good chunk of those credits. Louder music eats up more of your attention, and the noise of unwanted music takes up another chunk as you try to block it out. If your favorite music sucks you into the groove and you find yourself singing the chorus in your head, another chunk of your attention is gone.

Music tugs at our attention, and often wins. What did the Greek Sirens lure sailors with? Music. We are pulled to drop what we are doing to revel in euphoric music and the feel-good memories of association.

But on the flipside, perhaps your productivity is being hampered by low energy. Actively engaging with upbeat joyful music to get your body in the groove will increase blood flow and get the creative juices flowing.

Finally, music works best when we listen to it with our full attention. Like a walk in nature, listening mindfully to calming music can help attention restoration, thereby increasing productivity.

I recently produced the music for Finding Happiness, a film that offers powerful attention restoration. I had to carefully select, compose, and arrange the music to convey exactly the right feeling for the film’s message: that happiness can be found in each one of us by subtly tuning in with mind and spirit.

For feeling is truly the key to increasing productivity. In my last article I described how our feelings are manipulated on a daily basis by music, and how we can use that knowledge to our own advantage.

In the end, we are our own best productive music specialists: we intuitively know the feeling of productivity, and know what music will take us there. The music we choose will be different for each of us, dependent on our present feeling, mood, emotion, social upbringing, experiences, memory, and musical preference. Find what works for you.

My challenge to you is this: feel for where you want to go, select music to get you there, and watch what happens.

Music is a gift. Use it wisely.

Better, Faster, Smarter Music?

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