Whether you’re using it to pump you up to work out when you’re tired or to unwind for a better night’s sleep, music is a powerful motivator in many different situations. According to the team at Brain.fm, functional music — which has specific characteristics — can also be ultra-helpful when you want to stay focused at work. But what exactly makes music functional? The team explains that it comes down to a combo of qualities that affect the brain. “It could be the right density of sound texture, high energy yet low salience (distracting sounds), and many other acoustic characteristics,” notes Brain.fm CEO Dan Clark. “By understanding how the brain is affected by sound, we can make functional music directly and effectively, instead of relying on music that accidentally fulfills some of these criteria some of the time.”

If you’ve ever felt like the playlists you pick can truly affect your productivity, you’re onto something the team backs up with science. “Many of us already listen to music when we work,” they affirm. “The wrong music can put us at a disadvantage by distracting us and interfering with our ability to think. For example, pop music is designed to grab your attention. While listening to your favorite song while working can be fun, it’s not ideal for getting stuff done if you’re distracted by it.” On the other hand, music specifically designed for focus can help you work without totally stealing your attention. Ready to crank it up a notch? Keep reading for six science-backed tips that’ll help you make the most of your playlists.

A woman uses headphones while working in an office

1. Opt for songs without vocals or lyrics. “Music with vocals/lyrics is generally more distracting, especially when reading,” the team shares.

2. Save distracting music for a workout. “Distraction is your friend when working out,” the team confirms. “Save your favorite jams to see if they fit the rhythmic cycle of your exercise, which is also bright and attention-grabbing. Play it loud!”

3. Know how music affects you. “Studies suggest that different personalities respond differently to background music while working,” clarifies Brain.fm director of science Kevin Woods. Not sure how music affects you at work? Consider trying one of the 12 difference focus categories at Brain.fm to find your perfect fit.

4. Stick to uplifting tunes. We love Adele’s slow songs as much as the next gal, but the Brain.fm team cautions against streaming your favorite blues and ballads when you need energy to do great work.

5. Search for seamless transitions. Short tracks can possess a lot of the qualities that make music good for focus, but choppy transitions can throw you off course. “Try to find playlists that weave tracks together seamlessly, or use music providers that offer long-form tracks,” the team recommends.

6. Tune in to music made using science. “In the last few years, through scientific research and technology, music has been designed to have all of the characteristics needed to be maximally effective,” the Brain.fm team reminds. “We’ve been doing this for more than a decade, and love creating music that’ll help you live a productive life.”

What music makes you most productive at work? Tell us about your favorite artists, albums, playlists, or stations on Twitter @BritandCo!

(Photo via Getty)