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Working to Music

'If we are to hope for a society of culturally literate people, music must be a vital part of our education.' - Yo-Yo Ma.

There is a daily dilemma; music or no music. In the world of open offices, home setups and hot desking in cafes - or one of the 3.5 chairs Soho House has left allocated to people who want to work there while drinking nothing but water all day - noise cancelling headphones and steady beats may be the answer to real, focused, work.

The idea that listening to music can potentially improve productivity and cognitive function is nothing new. You probably remember the "Mozart Effect", based on a single 1993 study that suggested listening to Mozart made you brighter - Georgian Gov. Zell Miller prescribed classical music CDs to newborns when this came out!

There have since been studies on office workers and control groups to debunk most of this theory. Mozart has however been proven to improve spatial-temporal reasoning (one's ability to visually process things). Examples include; chess or thinking through your next UX design challenge. The catch? This only works for about 15mins.

So does music make us more productive? Well, sort of.

Basically, the science says music doesn't improve our brain's ability to ingest or process information, but it does improve our mood, making us more productive. Although if you're feeling curious, there are some people that are convinced "Alpha Waves" make you smarter.

Why should you listen to music while you work?

- Do it for the high. Listening to music (that we enjoy) activates the brain's reward system, specifically the dopamine pathway, which indirectly boosts memory formation.

- No distractions. 14% decrease in cognitive errors for users wearing AirPods in an open office.

- Feel good about work. Listening to music you enjoy each time you sit down not only wakes your brain up but also trains you to associate work with good times.

Here is how to build the perfect playlist, or skip to the end where we've done it for you.

(1) No vocals. That isn't a hard and fast rule. Tracks with vocals have been shown to improve output for workers doing repetitive low cognitive load tasks. But for creative, strategic or deep work, vocals become a distraction.

(2) Apply the iso principle: The iso principle originated in 1948 and is used in music therapy to alter a patient's mood. The concept is simple; play music that matches your current state, then adjust the composition to tilt the mood towards whatever you want. So start slow. Think mellow vibes, then allocate tracks that begin to build you into that fast-typing mood we call "flow".

(3) 121bpm. Now you're adding productive music. Researchers have shown that a faster track can result in increased performance. Test subjects were most productive at 121bpm - Rumour has it, Adele is about 121bpm. No, seriously, the track Rumour Has It is 121bpm. See what I did there?

(4) You need to enjoy it. In a small study, students outperformed when listening to music they enjoyed. Secondly, listening to tracks you are familiar with reduces cognitive load and stops our brain trying to understand what's happening in the song.

An extra one for those who want to win the productivity Olympics - (5) Use Zapier to link your Asana/ tool account with Spotify.

The Outro

Just like creating a beautiful desk space with one of our desk mats makes you more productive because you feel good - the presence of music can positively impact productivity, although it depends on various factors.

Anddd here is something the A+R Team created earlier... Spotify Link.

The News


Amazon launches palm reading payments into 65 more Wholefoods stores. I am not sure how this will actually work, as I am usually facepalming myself when I see the bill at checkout.

- If you like techy things, here is a list of the best productivity tools online.


Another negative quarter for the UK. With the extra bank holiday in June to blame. #worthit

- Deflation hits DTC. Online prices are down 2%.

- KatKin, a London-based online cat food ordering and delivery start-up, raised a £18M Series A led by Verlinvest and Perwyn.


Zuck is going big on WhatsApp Business.


- Via a meta study, it has now been shown that depression is likely not caused by lack of serotonin. This is a huge and important discovery.


- Venus Williams shows us how to serve.

- Save this video and watch it any time you need a little smile. 92yo Greek gentlemen gracefully dives into the sea.

Thank you, have a good week, Caspar.

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