I’m growing more interested in the effect of music on work performance. I’ve read short studies, usually in health/fitness related magazines, about the positives of exercising to music. For the longest time, I have listened to a mixture of talk radio and music when exercising, flipping from channel to channel looking for a song that I liked or could tolerate, and ditching the seemingly endless commericals. Treadmill time passed much faster and easily when I could walk/run to a string of two or three songs, rather than to the mindless chatter and forced laughter of the FM radio morning shows.

I usually hit the gym in the early morning, when music is not the main programming on most radio stations; all this switching stations became frustrating, so much so that I broke down and bought an MP3 player. First time on the treadmill with a string of favorite songs– I increased my workout time by 1/3, decreased by miles-per-minute, and increased the time running, and my average speed and incline. More than two months later, after adding even more music to my player for variety, I am running almost twice as long and at a greater speed than before, with less stress, exhaustion, etc… I don’t notice time passing; I don’t watch the clock looking to see how much more time I must spend there. I simply workout and enjoy the experience with the music to pace and entertain.

I bring this up now because I’ve spent the past four days grading. Day one & two: CNN was in the background, along with family interruptions. Day three & four, I wanted to listen to some Chicago Blues, so I tracked an online Blues radio station and listened as I read, commented, and wrote lengthy feedback letters to my students. I worked faster, more productively, and didn’t dislike being trapped in a seat.

I wonder how music might be, or is used, by our students as they write. I may ask them about it this week in class. The study-skills experts tell us to free ourselves from potential distractions when we work on school work; and honestly, I agree…I cannot focus on reading with background music. I can see the potential for using music with writing in the same ways that we use music with exercise.