If you are like many people, you may spend a third of your life working, and you may need to tune out distractions and focus during some of that time. You may have heard of specialty music apps with “productivity music.” If you already use Spotify, you can find hours of music and ambient sound content for free.
How Music and Sound Effect Productivity and Creativity
For decades, researchers studied the effect of music on our ability to focus, work, and create. The results vary depending on the task, the music, and possibly even personal preference.
Spotify conducted a survey to uncover what kind of music its users prefer when working or studying. Survey participants felt the right music depends on the type of task.
- For studying, 69% preferred ambient music.
- For writing and data analysis, 43% said they preferred instrumental music.
- For repetitive tasks like household chores, 64% preferred upbeat music.
Of course, the Spotify survey is based on participant preferences, but it isn’t inconsistent with the science. The “Mozart Effect” theory is partially inspired by a 1993 study published in Nature indicating that listening to Mozart may temporarily boost spatial-temporal reasoning, which is the skill involved in relating mental images in space and time. For example, a skilled chess player who thinks two or three moves ahead excels at spatial-temporal reasoning. It helps you plan, strategize and create.
Other studies summarized in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (JRSM) supported that listening to or learning to perform classical music may help boost spatial-temporal reasoning. However, the theory is controversial since some researchers could not reproduce the results. There are additional theories that listener preference may also be a factor. Some studies even highlighted that very complex music might hinder performance when engaging in tasks requiring intense concentration.
But it doesn’t stop there. Other studies propose:
- A 1994 study published in JAMA found surgeons who selected their own upbeat music performed repetitive test tasks requiring speed and accuracy better than those who didn’t listen to music and those who listened to researcher-chosen music.
- Working in a place with moderate background noise may stimulate creativity, according to a study published in 2012 in the Journal of Consumer Research. Sometimes this is referred to as the “coffee shop effect,” and some replicate that with “coffee shop” or cafe ambient sound tracks.
- White noise and “pink noise” are also options to consider. A study published in Nature in 2017 found that adults seem to learn new words easier with white noise in the background. On Spotify, you will find an assortment of both white noise and pink noise tracks. White noise containing “all the frequencies across the audible sound spectrum” in the 20–20,000 Hertz range. Pink noise goes a little deeper with the same range but more in the lower frequency zones, according to Medical News Today. An electric fan is an example of white noise, while a heartbeat is an example of pink noise.
- Music that you enjoy may also help the brain release dopamine, as reported by Wired. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps you experience pleasure, per Harvard Health.
Discovering Focus Music on Spotify
Spotify hosts music and pre-made playlists intended for studying, working, relaxation, or focus. You can search for those terms to find relevant music. Also, you always have the option of trying Mozart.
If you want to try pre-curated playlists, you can go to Spotify’s focus hub, which includes playlists for activities like writing, studying, reading, focusing, and relaxing.
If you don’t know what works for you, these playlists allow you to experiment with different kinds of music and sound. Be sure to like or save any tracks you especially enjoy and consider adding them to your own playlist.
How to Create Your Own Focus or Work Playlist
There are many tricks to create and manage your Spotify playlist, so once you have the songs you want to use, follow these steps:
How to Create a Spotify Playlist From a Specific Song
If you want to create a playlist from a specific song:
- Click on the three-dot button next to the song title, then choose Add to playlist.
- You have the option to add the song to an existing playlist or create a new playlist.
- The default playlist name will be the track title, but you can change it if you want.
- Spotify will create a playlist just with that song, and its algorithm will suggest other similar songs or tracks.
How to Create a Spotify Playlist From a Scratch
The steps are similar to create an empty playlist are pretty similar. But, instead of choosing your first song, you need to:
- Go to Your Library and select the plus sign (+).
- Name your playlist.
- Tap Create.
- Add any song you want.
When you start to add songs, you might see some suggestions based on your listening history, which is one of Spotify’s hidden features you should take advantage of.
Sometimes, the algorithm will show you great songs for your playlists, but if you want to break out of the Spotify feedback loop, you might want to find songs you’ve never even heard of.
Choose the Soundtrack That Works for You
Since the best music depends on the task, you may prefer to experiment to see what works for you. For example, some people find pink noise helps them focus, while others may find themselves nodding off. By exploring Spotify’s extensive library, you may find the right sounds for your needs.