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Listening to music can help with concentration

By Jenna Goldberg, 4th-year Sociology major

For some people, working in a quiet environment helps them focus. For others, like myself, it is usually impossible. Picking a playlist for me is what sets me on track to start reading, writing, or studying. Research suggests that listening to certain kinds of music in the background can help in calming a person down. Being calm helps productivity.

The type of music you choose, though, is very important. It is useful to have a pre-made playlist ready to go when it comes time to hit the books! Try to make a playlist that is 50 minutes in length, as the end of the playlist can serve as your reminder to take your ten-minute break from work (50/10 rule)! My top suggestions of music to listen to while doing work are

  • classical music, specifically Mozart
  • ambient instrumental music
  • instrumental covers of pop songs
  • instrumental movie soundtracks

Instead of listening to music in the background, some people like to listen to recurring or repetitive sounds. The use of this also creates a calming effect for the listener. Some sound suggestions that can be found online are

  • rain
  • waves
  • jungle
  • fireplace crackling

If you choose to listen to music when you do work consider the volume at which you have the music set. The volume should be low and the sounds should simply provide a blanket over the other noises that are occurring in one’s environment.

Now it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of things — how do you know what to focus on?

Start by making a To Do List.

When making a To Do List, one should start by writing everything down that one has to do on a scrap piece of paper. Then everything that is of most importance, whether it is the biggest assignment or the one that is due the soonest, should be marked with an “A”. Then everything that is next important should be marked with a “B”. Then, everything else is marked with a “C”. This helps one to see what tasks have to get done first.

Once this is done, the next step is to create the To Do List. By listing everything that has an “A” next to it first, then “B”, then “C”. Then start with the first thing on the To Do List and work your way down until they all get done!

Set SMART goals.

SMART goals are

  • specific
  • measurable
  • action-oriented
  • realistic
  • time sensitive

This should be applied to each “A” task that you have written on your To Do List. It will help keep you on task and will help one plan in a way that will reduce stress!

Be positive.

It is a choice, a habit, that one can develop and it is important to stay positive for yourself! Work can get overwhelming, but you need to stay positive. You will feel happier even if it takes that little bit of extra effort.

Be disciplined.

If you know you have a lot of work to do and that you could get a lot done if you don’t go out on Thursday night or on the weekend – make a study date with a friend! Choose to use the time you have in a way that will reduce your stress later on. You don’t have to give up your social time, as it is easy to pair studying with friends. Be honest with yourself when choosing a friend to make your study buddy. Make sure they are as serious about getting work done as you are!

Be patient.

It won’t help to rush through readings just to say you got them done. In the long run the only person you are hurting is yourself. Take the time. Sit down with your textbook, lecture notes, or assignments and give it your full attention. You will learn something if you approach university in this way.

Our Online Resources contain loads more information on focus and concentration as well as motivation and procrastination. Good luck! Remember to visit Study Skills Coaching if you have further questions.

Photo courtesy of Mark Welsh under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0.