Saturday, August 09, 2008

Music for productivity in your home:

On a table of books offered for $.99 a piece, I found a book called "Tips for Your Home Office" by Meredith Gould. The book was written back in the 1990's, which probably accounted for it being in the bargain section of the half-price book store. Even so, I think it has some great tips for organizing your home office and your time. The principles can also be applied to other aspects of homemaking.

Here's an interesting thought from the book:

She says that certain combinations of sound and rhythm in music will lower blood pressure, enhance concentration, stimulate creativity and even overcome the late-afternoon slump. On the other hand, other kinds of music irritate your nerves, make you lose focus, or even make you cranky. She says that according to research, classical music has proved to be the most effective music to work by, but she says that not all classical music suits these purposes.

So, what music does she recommend to increase productivity, based on research? Here's a list:

1) The more memasured, mathematical, and reptitious compositions of the baroque era (end of 16th century to early 18th century). Think Bach, Vivaldi, Toerlli, and Teleman.
2) The lighter, more buoyant works of the classical era (18th century). Think Mozart and Haydn.
3) Except for Gregorian chants, which are repetitive, avoid vocal music.
4) Unless you grew up in another culture and have absorbed that culture's musical foundations, stick to Western music. (My note: If you did grow up in a non-western tradition of music, perhaps you might want to experiment with different things from your musical tradition that make you feel most calm and yet productive. You might want to write about that on your blog and leave a comment here so that we can learn about your musical experiences.)
5) Avoid music of the romantic era (early and mid-19ths century), the atonal music of the 20th century, and most synthesized New Age music. New Age music, she says, can be soothing, but it doesn't encourage productivity.
6) Save peppier music -- such as rock, rap, jazz, movie tracks, and greatest hits -- for when you take breaks to tidy up your home office or file papers.

She says one way to enhance your work is to tune into a classical music station, but switching if they turn to selections that interfere with your working environment.

Of course, she's referring to music that enhances productivity and creativity for a home business -- not necessarily music that you might enjoy listening to for recreation. I am curious how her theory applies to other home tasks, such as cleaning and organizing. I read a long time ago that students who listened to classical music before certain tests scored better. So, perhaps, the research she is citing is in line with that.

Other than advising against vocal music, she doesn't discuss listening to spiritual songs and hymns, which I know many in the homemaking corner of the blog-o-sphere like to play as they work. I wonder if some of the more classically styled hymns might be just the thing to encourage our home management. I think because I'm a reader and a writer, I can easily get sidetracked pondering the meaning of the words, rather than attending to the task at hand. Of course, that would at least be helpful meditation -- good for the soul, at any rate. Some people have different interests and tune more into the music itself than to the words.

Of course, my thought would be that you should listen to whatever works for you or even enjoy silence if you prefer. Sometimes, I like to have my house quiet -- except for happy sounds coming in from the outside. I like to hear the breeze, birds singing, wind chimes, and especially children playing in the distance. Other times, however, I get lazy and turn on something like HGTV or TV Land to have noise while I'm working around the house. Sometimes, the shows inspire me to do the best with my home, but they also distract me. Quality music would be a better choice for me, I think. So, the author's suggestions do provide me with food for thought -- or, should I say -- musical food for the brain.

What about you? What music do you enjoy when you work at home? Do you listen to one type of music while you do active things, such as vacuuming and another type for paying bills or returning correspondence? Do you teach your children about different styles of music? Do you like music playing or a quiet house? Do you or your children listen to soothing music as you fall asleep? What type of music do you play when you have people coming over? I'd love to hear what works for you so I can be inspired by your ideas.



Kitty said...

Not much experience in the work environment, but I've experimented a bit with listening to music while I study. I definitely agree that if you are trying to concentrate on a task, anything with vocals is distracting, but I can't agree with the use of repititious Baroque classical music. I find that if I'm just hearing the same music over and over again, I am more likely to feel bored, and lose concentration. What I've found to work best for me so far has been soundtracks with no vocals, such as "The Piano" and "Amelie", and even those of the Harry Potter films. There is a variation in tone (for the different events of the movie), but usually not enough to distract me.


Elizabeth said...

Thanks for sharing what works for you, Kit. I'll have to listen to the sound tracks you mention.

Meredith Gould said...

Thanks to the Google Gods, I found your post that references my beloved first book. And just the other day I was telling someone that I knew I was a "real author" when TFYHO was remaindered!

So happy you found it and found it useful. A decade later and I'm still using Mozart and Bach to uplevel my productivity. I listen to Gregorian chant when I need to dial down at the end of the day.

As for housecleaning, which I happen to find simultaneously stimulating and relaxing, I tend to crank up something I can sing along with or venerable disco like great hits from the Pointer Sisters. No joke.