From The Rock

A little music = a lot of productivity…usually

By | November 12, 2012

If you’re like me, silence can be deafening. While I definitely appreciate silence for some activities – like sleeping – I almost always need some background noise for others. At Obsidian, we’re lucky to have a pretty open office. If someone asks a question, everyone else can answer without having to leave their desk or exhibit the ultimate form of laziness: emailing or calling a colleague who is no more than a few doors down. (I’ll admit it; I’m guilty of that on occasion.)

When everyone is absorbed in work, when I’m working by myself somewhere or when it’s imperative to get something done, music tends to be my favorite escape. The jury’s still out on whether there is actually a correlation between music and productivity – most studies say music with words is distracting, but instrumental music feeds productivity. That said, most of the Obsidian team enjoys a little musical accompaniment on occasion, and they shared what helps them turn out great work for our clients every day.

What is your favorite type of music to listen to in general?

Thomas – Rockabilly – Is that term still used? I like things like The Avett Brothers, Pearl Jam and Wilco.

Katie – I really don’t keep up with music all that much…or at least, I go through phases where I don’t. Generally, if I have a really long commute to work, then I care more about music. For example, all these Avett Brothers/Mumford & Sons/etc., I couldn’t pick their songs out of a lineup. I just listen to whatever is on FM radio. That said, my favorite song in the history of ever is probably “Oh Happy Day” as performed by the St. Francis High School Choir in Sister Act 2.

Lauren – I like all different kinds of music, but mainly oldies, singer/songwriter, Ryan Adams, Lucero and The Temptations.

Dana – I like pretty much all country, pop and alternative music.

Courtney – I love almost everything (besides blues and jazz). My favorite band is The Killers. Here’s a snapshot of what’s in my multiplayer CD in the car today:

  • Justin Timberlake
  • Black Eyed Peas
  • Ludacris
  • Damien Rice
  • O’ Brother Where Art Thou? Soundtrack
  • Miranda Lambert

Do you listen to music while working, and do you listen to different types of music depending on the kind of work you’re doing?

Kerri – For work-related listening, it depends on what I’m working on. Here are my favorite Pandora channels right now, and generally when I listen to them:

  • Telepopmusik – No. 1 choice for task mode (when I have a lot of little things to get done – key note: no writing tasks
  • Enya/Cirque du Soleil – No. 2/No. 3 choice for task mode (when more creativity may be involved) – once again, no writing tasks
  • City and Color, Ambrosia, Coldplay, Sade, Sia – choices for “entertainment music” when I’m doing tasks that take a lot of time but don’t take much brain work.
  • Anugama – No. 1 choice for writing/strategy developmentGeorge Winston – No. 2 choice for writing/strategy development

Kelli – What I’m listening to depends on how hard I need to concentrate! If I’m trying to really dig deep into something that’s difficult to wrap my brain around (like numbers or something scientific that I’m writing about), I need something calming and slow. If a song that is really fast-paced or that has a great beat comes on in the middle of those tasks, it’s over. When I’m rolling through things quickly and doing something fun, I like music that makes me want to dance a little, it helps me stay motivated under a big to-do list.

Kim – If I’m working, like on schoolwork or Obsidian work, I actually prefer silence! I’ve tried listening to music while working, but if it’s something I really need to think about and concentrate on, the music becomes more of a distraction. I’ll either start dancing in my seat to the tune, humming along to the song or start thinking about some distant memory that is somehow connected to the song playing. Now, if I’m doing chores, running errands, etc., music is definitely involved.

What’s on your favorite Pandora station?

Lauren – I have a lot of Pandora stations, but they include the Temptations, Al Green, Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye, Supremes, Lionel Richie and Motown stations.

Courtney – Lately, it’s been on a station that plays cinematic scores and soundtracks from spooky and Halloween-type movies.

Kim – I can really only pick one? I think it’s a three-way tie between my Halestorm channel, Carrie Underwood channel and Put Your Records On (Corinne Bailey Rae) channel.

Crissy – I actually prefer Spotify while I’m at work so I can hear entire albums or specific artists, but the Pandora station I’ve been attached to lately is Alanis Morissette – good things from the ’90s come out of that station.

Kelli – I mostly listen to a “Quick Mix” that combines several stations I like. I add or remove based on what I’m doing, but it generally includes some mix of the Black Eyed Peas (for those big to-do list days), Bob Seger, Adele, Country, what I call “Rock Out” and a Christmas music station for that one month a year.

Is there any sort of music that hinders your productivity?

Dana – I can’t have anything with overbearing vocals. That does distract me.

Thomas – Music that I like that can also be distracting – old school rap. Music that distracts me because it’s bad and I don’t like it – country.

Katie – My least favorite band on earth is Alice in Chains. Their music literally makes me gag. And my husband loves them, so that works out well.

Crissy – I absolutely cannot listen to Broadway musical soundtracks at work! I want to sing, sing, sing, and that leads to zero productivity!

Kerri – I have the following channels on my Pandora but can’t listen to them because they are (to me) weekend music, and they make me want to hang out with friends and not work: Widespread Panic, Allman Brothers, Jack Johnson, Sting and James Taylor.