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Music and productivity: going hand in hand?

Here we go again: another night filled with homework, and another opportunity to fall into the ever so appealing trap of procrastination. Because of the substantial amount of homework and academic stress at Packer, it is crucial to find ways to improve productivity and be on top of all our work.

In this age of technology, there are many ways to increase our focus, one of the most popular being music. Listening to music enables some students to be more inspired during the sometimes tedious task of homework, and also enhances focus when the brain is strained because of cramming for, say, an essay due next period. Despite some drawbacks of music while learning, it is clear that work habits and productivity are increased when listening to music by lightening one’s mood and tightening one’s focus.

In general, music provides entertainment and distraction from problems and serves as a way to relieve tension and boredom. Teresa Lesiuk, associate professor of music education and music therapy at the University of Miami, argues that “It’s shown that when you’re in that particular mood state [brought on by listening to music], you take in more options, [and are] better at problem-solving and thinking creatively.”

Not only is music beneficial to your mood, but the act of listening to music actually fosters attention and focus towards your topic. As Sparring Mind, (a newsletter based around the art of creative work) puts it, “music has a way of expressing that which cannot be put into words.” When it is late the night before you have a huge assignment due and, stress begins to overpower and it becomes difficult to focus on work because of the anxiety fogging the brain. In this situation, listening to music allows one to to step back for a moment and remember that everything will be ok. Listening to music in a time of stress motivates and improves your mood.

Although many believe music is beneficial to one’s focus, and “helps block out surroundings in order to fully concentrate on work” as Sara Gerson (21’) says, it can also  be a drawback. Some researchers maintain that music, particularly with lyrics, distracts in a detrimental way when someone is trying to learn new things.

When it comes to absorbing and retaining new information, listening to music might be harmful. Sparring Mind stresses that listening to music demands too much of your attention (even when the sounds are subtle) to allow you to be effective while trying to learn or analyze new information Since listening to music with lyrics activates the language center of our brains, trying to engage in other language-related tasks like reading and writing becomes challenging. When focusing on homework such as writing, it is more beneficial to listen to music quietly, or not all, so that you can pay close attention to the words you are writing, and not to the repetitive and upbeat lyrics and melodies of pop music.

Many researchers including Sparring Mind, suggest listening to music you already know when doing more brain activated tasks because you know what is coming and your brain does not try to learn new musicality. On the contrary, it can be better to listen to music you don’t know word for word when you are doing less laborious homework (like math) that usually doesn’t require learning a whole new topic, because it prevents you from singing the song in your head and becoming more distracted.

Adda Jones (21’) has found that while doing English and history homework, she likes to listen to “slower songs and turn the volume down so [she] can focus on [her] work while having the music be in the background.” This allows her to not get distracted, while at the same time enjoying the music induced mood booster. She also emphasized the importance of music for her focus, and that without it her level of procrastination could be much higher.

For students with many hours of homework each night, it is imperative to find what works best for you in terms of tightening focus and getting everything done on time. Different people prefer varying methods, but music is definitely a good option for those who enjoy a reassuring mood lift and encouraging inspiration. So plug in your headphones, start typing, and as many say, grind.

Check out this awesome homework playlist by Daisy Zuckerman (22′) for some song inspo!

Mele Buice is currently a junior at The Packer Collegiate Institute and a second year reporter for the Packer Prism this year. She joined journalism because of her love of the Prism and to experience a new type of writing. In addition to writing, Mele plays soccer for Packer and dances 5 days a week. She also loves to spend time with her friends and family. She is looking forward to an amazing year in journalism! Mele can be reached at

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