If you find your attention span trailing off during the work day, you aren't alone — my train of thought derails roughly 7,000 times any given week. However, if you're looking for a life hack that will help you focus, there is a trick that might make you more productive at work. According to Daniel Levitin, a cognitive neuroscientist and the author of This Is Your Brain on Music, popping in a pair of earbuds and rocking out in conjunction with your nine-to-five could be the key to a more successful day at the office.
While listening to Pandora's Mozart station during her daily grind, Business Insider's Shana Lebowitz reported felt empowered by how productive the music seemingly made her. So, she reached out to Levitin to confirm the veracity of her perceived musically enhanced performance. Much to Lebowitz's surprise, though, Levitin informed her that the classical guitar playing she'd become so accustomed to hearing in the background was quite possibly making her even less productive. Oooopsie! However, it turns out Lebowitz was on to something — listening to music during the work day can make you more productive, but only if you do it before you actually begin working. He credits the spike in productivity with the fact that music makes your brain release dopamine, enveloping you in a "warm feeling of pleasure." So basically, this.
Well, not quite... but you get the gist.
Levitin says that you should pop in the earbuds and listen to your favorite jams roughly 10 to 15 minutes before starting the task at hand. In addition to the warm fuzzies afforded by the dopamine release, you may also experience a surge in the mood-elevating neurotransmitter serotonin during this time, which could make it easier to focus.
But are there exceptions to the rule? Working out isn't exactly the same as working a desk job, but I remain convinced I'm far more productive in the gym when I have my iPod handy. This makes sense, because there are exceptions to the pre versus during music productivity rule. When you're performing tasks that are repetitive or monotonous (like working an assembly line or, you know, sweating buckets on the stair-stepper), listening to music can boost your arousal or interest in the activity and see you through to the end.
If your office has a strict no music policy, however, here are other hacks you can try to hone your focus and make you more efficient during the work day:
1. Bundle The Good With The Bad
Temptation bundling was coined to describe a method of coupling instantly gratifying activities you want to do with engagement in important but less desirable activities.
2. Do The Worst Thing First
Don't check your email. Don't kill time on Facebook. Knock off the most dreaded things on your to-do list first thing in the morning, when studies have proven your brain is more alert and your willpower is at its peak.
3. Consult Your Schedule
While something is always bound to come up that will throw a wrench in your workflow, setting and at least trying to stick to a schedule with keep your brain on track throughout the day and minimize distractions.