Is Music Making You Less Productive?

For most office workers, it turns out the best thing to listen to is nothing. When silence and music were put head-to-head in more cognitively complex tests, people did better in silence.

The Best Music for Productivity? Silence
by Olga Khazan (@olgakhazan)

Tips & Tricks:

Music can be productive for:

  • Making repetitive tasks less boring.
  • Keeping workers alert.

But music can also ruin productivity:

  • Engaging music is bad for tasks requiring concentration.
  • Music with lyrics is bad for verbal tasks. It competes for your attention.
  • Music with lots of variation impairs performance.
  • Music and speech negatively affects memory and math skills.

So why do we still listen to music while working?

  1. We don’t actually feel it affecting us negatively at work.
  2. We enjoy it, especially over deafening silence.


  1. Enjoy your music during your break times.
  2. Do away with any and all noise altogether if you’re doing deep, focused work.

Need a place to be productive? Here are some scientifically proven places to get stuff done.