Does Music Improve Focus?

A recent Wall Street Journal article asks the following question: Does listening to music improve one’s focus? After exploring the Mozart and Slayer Effects, the answer is that there’s no definitive answer. Music helps some while it hinders others.

I don’t always listen to music when trying to focus. If I’m sufficiently self-motivated, I just dive right in. If I’m distracted or unmotivated, I’ll put in my headphones and fire up Google Music or YouTube.

The science confirms it’s best to avoid music with lyrics. This is probably easier for those of us who already enjoy classical music. But if I decide to listen to music with lyrics, it must be a single song on repeat. I picked this tactic up from Ryan Holiday, who writes that it “allows the songs to fade into themselves—to become a more or less continuous stream.” You don’t even hear the lyrics once you enter “the zone.”

Whether or not you listen to music while concentrating, these findings are unlikely to change your habits. There is no right or wrong way to focus. Continue to do whatever works best for you.


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