Can You Get Work Done While Listening To Music?

I can’t! If I am trying to read, write something, or do anything that takes any amount of brain power, I really need to be able to hear myself think. I always thought I could do it, but I can’t.

I remember one time in college, the dreaded day was approaching. I needed all my brain power so that I could write my fifty-page senior thesis that was due in one week. Of course like any good senior, I hadn’t read one book or typed a single word of my thesis, so I loaded up a mountain of books and laptop and headed to Starbucks.

In leaving campus, I hoped that I would escape the temptation to hang out with friends, avoid the always enticing internet, and not be distracted by all the fun activities a college campus can present.

After ordering a highly caffeinated drink, I flipped open a book and began to read when all of a sudden one of the Starbucks workers decided they wanted to listen to music very loudly. Imagine someone playing a trumpet right into your ear while you are trying to read tough material. Imagine someone taking giant cymbals and smashing them together right in front of your face. As this music was raging through the air, I began to feel panicky. I knew I should be concentrating and for Pete’s sake writing something down, but I just couldn’t think.

What’s your experience? Can you get work done while listening to music?


5 thoughts on “Can You Get Work Done While Listening To Music?

  1. Your post turned up in my feed reader so couldn’t resist coming in and commenting 😉

    You might be interested in some research done by Dr. Anneli Haake on how music affects people at work – you can check out her website here:

    The bottom line seems to be that so long as you can control the auditory environment – then music can help you focus on tasks such as reading and writing. My personal experience is that I don’t like to listen to music that has words when I am reading or writing because I find the words in the songs compete with the words that I’m trying to digest or create – so – instrumental music is preferable.

    You might want to try again (although you’re probably no longer in college) and have some longer form instrumental music at a lower level in the background – you might find it more enjoyable then the Starbuckian crashing cymbal experience!

    Finally – music is a great tool to help kids calm down and know that it is time for bed – might work with Elias – you never know! 😉

  2. I had a high school teacher that played classical music in class when we were studying. I’m like you though, if I’m concentrating really hard on something, music is sometimes a distraction. Sometimes though, it’s a welcomed distraction! 🙂

  3. No I can’t! I had a teacher in middle school that was convinced that classical music and peppermints helped you during testing. Between the Mozart and peppermint wrappers I think I failed my Tcaps that year. The only time I would put on music in my classroom was when my students were cutting and gluing things.

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