There is a meme popping on Twitter and the blogosphere where some Web professionals are wondering if it is a good thing to listen to music while working or not. I had been reflecting on that very thing recently so this comes at a timely moment for me.
Of course, to a point this comes down to personal preferences but it seems that, musicians like me respond to music in a different way than non-musicians which makes it harder for us to concentrate on the work at hand when listening to music. For example, look at the quote from Mark W. Shead in the “Should we listen to music while working?” post on Designer Daily. Thanks to Mirko Humbert on Twitter for the heads up on that article. He makes the point that if background noise is needed, the sound of waves or rain or something equally neutral is better than music as he states that he simply cannot perform tasks requiring high levels of concentration while listening to music.
I myself generally like to listen to music while working but whether I do or not depends directly on the kind of task I am working on at that moment and how I feel on that particular day. If I’m more tired for example I’ll have a harder time concentrating to begin with so I may prefer the silence. Furthermore, my music listening habits have evolved over time and as my circumstances changed. When I was still a student living with my parents, I used to need to put some music on at a reasonably low volume to “shield” myself from the noises in the rest of the house. That “wall of sound” effect permitted me to reach incredible levels of concentration. When I was in the “zone” like that, a train could have passed in my room and I would not have noticed. I’m not exaggerating. As a teenager I could reach levels of concentration that I simply cannot attain anymore which makes me very jealous of my teenage self…
When I’m in design mode, I usually like more upbeat or heavier music. I rarely design in silence. The musical stimulus really helps idea generation. The style here is very varied and depends a lot more on my own mood than the type of project I’m working on. Again here, I often turn to XM or to my MP3 player but with a more focused genre depending on the day.
So, what about you? Is music part of your work process too or do you need complete silence to be able to work?