Bring in the Noise, Bring in the Focus? - THINKERS Notebook

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Bring in the Noise, Bring in the Focus?

I like sharing an office with my wife. 

It's nice to be able to chat between tasks, ask question questions, or simply glance over at any moment and see her pretty face.

I've also enjoyed getting an extended, in-depth look behind the curtain at how she works. She's good. Damn good. And it's been fun to see it up close.

But this doesn't mean that every element of sharing an office is great, or even practical for the long-term.

The biggest issue is the one that's playing out right now, as I write this: my wife is on a call during which she is doing a lot of the talking, and I am over here trying to think and write.

I used to struggle with it -- big time.

As recently as just a few weeks ago, I would have to reserve all writing for the early morning or late night. I just found it too difficult to focus with her conversation going on nearby.

Now, however, I'm breezing right along writing this newsletter barely aware that her call is occurring less than ten feet away.

What's changed?


How listening to music is helping me think better

As 2021 approached, I took the opportunity to reassess how I was working.

I knew that a tweak here or there could help me more produce more and better work.

One strategy I decided to try is having music in my headphones when my wife and I are in the office together. I had already downloaded the Headspace app so that we could do more daily meditations as a family, and I noticed their music and ambient noise section. So I tried it out ...

And it worked wonderfully. 

I use the Making Space track, which is 180 minutes of "sweeping, cinematic audio with rain and static," according to its description.

It claims to be "the perfect soundtrack for work and study."

I've found this to be true.

When I'm sitting at my computer, headphones on, and this track going, I feel like I transport into another world. I'm able to fully immerse myself in whatever task I'm doing -- especially writing.

I only wish I'd tried it out sooner! Alas, I'm just happy to be experiencing the benefits now.

As you'll see in the links below, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that music and ambient sounds can help some people focus better in certain situations.

So it's not a panacea, but it can be a helpful tool for improved focus.

I am sharing my story, and these links, in hopes that it will provide another avenue for you to travel in our shared quest to think better and focus more.

Will music or noise help you focus better? It depends ...


"In the end, the ideal noise level depends on the situation, and on your preferences. While too much noise is always going to overload your system and impair studying, how much noise you need while studying is a fairly personal choice.

"If you like the noise, embrace it. If not, find yourself a nice quiet corner. Just remember, though, there are a lot of factors that will play into whether or not it helps you study better."

Read: Is background noise good for studying? (Brainscape Academy)

Here are some music/noise options to consider.


"Listening to music—particularly songs without lyrics—can help with repetitive tasks, increase focus, and boost productivity. But do you know what doesn't do any of that? Wasting 30 minutes trying to find some tunes.

Despite millions of content choices at our fingertips, we often spend too much time browsing, believing in vain that perhaps the next tap or swipe will produce the perfect song. Knock it off and get down to business with one of these options."

Watch: The Best Music and Sounds to Help You Focus (PC Mag)

Music may do more than just block out distractions.


"Music is more than a defense against weapons of mass distraction: according to some researchers, it may actually play a key evolutionary role in our ability to digest patterns, anticipate events, and create order out of the chaotic strands of human experience."

Read: Study Music Increases Your Brain Power (The Best Schools)
Quote of the week

It is incontestable that music induces in us a sense of the infinite and the contemplation of the invisible.” 

-- Victor de LaPrade