Noise is a huge distraction if you’re trying to get anything done. Especially if it’s anything with words. Get rid of noise to enable deep focus.
Peace And Quiet Promote Focus
Your mind takes on the character of your surroundings. This is as true for short bursts of work as it is for life in general.
It is hard to get work done when you’re surrounded by noise. Noise is a huge distraction, and any verbal noise will interfere with your reading, writing and thought patterns.
Think of how hard it is to read with lyrical music playing. Or how difficult it is to hold a phone conversation while people are talking around you. Or even how it feels to try doing anything productive while construction works goes on outside.
You need peace and quiet for deep focus.
Noise Is A Waste Of Energy
If you’re in a noisy environment, you’ll waste mental energy to blocking out the noise and trying to focus. Any energy spent on ignoring noise is energy you’re not spending on what you’re trying to do.
We live in noisy environments. I’m writing this on 5th Avenue, New York City. I’m hundreds of feet above street level, but I can hear the crashing din of the city below me anyway – cars honking, people shouting, trucks unloading. More and more people work in open-plan offices – disasters for focus.
I have worked in one of these spaces, and the effects on your focus are devastating. Phones ringing, people talking, music playing – sitting down and getting into flow with your work becomes a chore. But cost-cutting and the latest “management philosophies” mean we’re seeing more and more of this type of workplace.
Step 1: Cancel The Noise
Noise canceling headphones are one of the best investments you’ll make. I own two pairs:
I use these so often that I had to buy the wireless version as soon as it hit the market. The QC25’s are cheaper now that the wireless version is out, so get those if you’re on a budget.
Audiophiles (sound nerds) will tell you that Bose is usually for those with more money than sense. For any other product, I agree. But even those sound nerds will admit that for noise canceling, Bose is the best on the market. They’ve got patents, and I’ve tested them against other brands – nothing compares.
Why get the headphones? Because you outsource noise canceling from your brain to the electronics. This frees up your mental energy to focus on what you want to do.
Step 2: Blanket The Noise
A good set of noise canceling headphones like the Bose ones will cut out human conversations, like if you’re working in a coffee shop, just by being on. But if you’re working with a higher noise level around you – say, an airport lobby, or your neighbor is throwing a party – you’ll need more.
I advise against lyrical or complex music. Anything with words or high tempo will mess with your peace and focus. Use calm, rhythmic music, or natural sound.
Calm, rhythmic music would be jazz, for example. But that’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
For most cases, I suggest Noisli. It’s free, beautiful, and extremely easy to use. Noisli has a library of various natural sounds – running water, a crackling fire, wind, raindrops – and white noise/fan noise as options. You can mix and match these to blend various sounds together, and save your favorite combinations for later use. There’s an iPhone app too, which costs a couple bucks – I sprung for it since I use it almost every day.
Regular headphones don’t noise cancel, and most people use them to listen to music over the top of all the noise around them. Put the noise to sleep by using noise canceling headphones, and then blanket it with calm, natural sound.
You’ll feel like you’re sitting on a cloud, or in a cottage by a river somewhere. Let your mind take on the character of your new audio surroundings. And you’ll have mental energy to spare to focus deeply on your work.