The Effect Of Radio On Productivity

Waking early. Multitasking. Mixing work and pleasure. How much can you cram into a morning? That first half-hour especially, while you are getting up and making your bed, stretching, brushing, showering, and dressing? You’re doing some very routine and mindless rituals, so why not stimulate your mind?

I have two preferences, both on the radio. National Public Radio is one — the occasionally pompous, sometimes annoying, always smug source of contemporary correct intelligence. Howard Stern is the other. I like Howard Stern, because he is smart and plugged in to the 95% of America that doesn’t like NPR and because he never has a disingenuous moment. Be it NPR or Howard Stern, I’m sometimes tempted to keep listening while I walk the dog, feed the fish, and drive to work.

And today, I listened for a while at the office, while I planned my day. Instead of putting on instrumental music, I switched to Howard Stern and set about sorting through my in boxes. What happened was this: I spent almost 30 minutes doing what usually takes me 15. And when I was done, I had to do it over.

This reminded me of two things I already knew:

1. If you want to do a good job, you must focus on it and nothing else.

2. If you have an addictive personality, you will never get enough of a bad thing.

Listening to Howard Stern is brain candy for me. It’s delicious and OK in small doses, but if I do it when I need to concentrate on something else, I end up doing neither thing very well. And I’m quite sure that NPR would be no better — intellectually or productively. When you get to work, get to work.

[Ed. Note.  Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]