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We all have different rituals that help us to concentrate on the task at hand.
Some people spend hours organizing and reorganizing their desk or house, and others swear by absolute silence when they are working.
If you are looking for ways to increase your concentration, and therefore your productivity, you may have overlooked an important tool: ambient music.
There is a growing scientific consensus that listening to ambient music can significantly increase concentration levels.
The way that this works has been researched extensively over the past few years, as have some techniques for maximizing the productivity gain of listening to ambient music.
How It Works
Club DJs have long known that there is a direct link between the tempo and rhythm of a piece of music and the mindset of their audience.
In a nightclub environment, the tempo of music is designed to match the heart rate of the dancers, starting slow to get everybody warmed up, before building to a peak of excitement.
The same technique can be used to help you concentrate. By subconsciously imposing a rhythm on your work, ambient music can keep your mind and body in a state of relaxed alertness, which is perfect for staying concentrated for long periods.
Research studies from as far back as 1972 have found that playing background music during the performance of repetitive work significantly increased productivity.
This study was performed on factory workers who were required to perform repetitive tasks, and found that even when played over the otherwise distracting noise of factory machines, workers were happier, and found it easier to concentrate, when ambient music was played.
There have been more recent studies that have sought to explain this effect. The outcome of these studies, and the current thinking in this area, is that it is actually the “happiness” created by listening to certain forms of ambient music that leads to better concentration and productivity gains.
This research found that dissonant music had little to no effect on the ability of test subjects to concentrate, as would be expected. However, when test subjects were played music in major keys, their productivity increased significantly.
This suggests, as I will explain below, that what you should look for when choosing music to work to are pieces that you enjoy, as the dopamine and serotonin boost produced by listening…