Maybe you listen to music every minute of the workday. Maybe you resort to music if your environment gets too active and loud. Or perhaps you reach for your headphones because the room is so calm and quiet that you can’t stay awake. Most of us who grew up in the digital age associate the perfect playlist with perfectly focused work. But does it actually help us focus or not?

Research shows that in certain instances music can increase both our creativity and productivity.  The right music in the right situation can drown out unwanted noises, increase your attentiveness to the present moment, reign in your wandering thoughts, and even improve your mood by increasing your dopamine levels.

But if you select the wrong kind of music, all these benefits are turned on their heads and your work noticeably suffers. Listening to lyrically driven music at work tends to hinder your ability to absorb new information. It’s also unwise to listen anything that’s brand new to you, as your interest will be piqued and your creativity undermined. So, approach with caution.

My advice: learn yourself. Make a conscious effort to learn when and where music is beneficial to your work. This might mean that you save the “Top-40” list for the car ride, rather than the office. And while you’re working, maybe a little less Beyoncé, and a little more Beethoven.

 For more on music and productivity see these articles:

The Power of Music, Tapped in a Cubicle

At Work, Do Headphones Really Help?