Mondays are productivity days at SimpleProductivity blog.
I recently moved into another part of our office, and I sit outside the cube of one of the managers. He himself is not too loud, except when he is humming and drumming along to his own music. However, most days pass by with a parade of his subordinates coming to give updates, ask questions, and generally chit-chat.
In order for me concentrate effectively, I need to block out the noise. My favorite weapon of choice is my MP3 player. Here are five different items I listen to to help block out distractions and concentrate:
Radio Show: Fibber McGee and Molly
Fibber McGee, a radio show from the 1940’s, is light comedy. The everyday adventures are engaging without being engrossing. I can listen to the show with half attention and still enjoy it. I get a new episode every week via podcast (link via ITunes). This is my first level defense. It blocks noise, while allowing me to engage in routine tasks.
Audio Book: Pride and Prejudice
My all-time favorite book is Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. I have read this book so many times that it is familiar to me as the back of my hands. I can turn this on and the spoken word will cover any normal conversations in my area. My particular version comes from Audible. I use this as the second line of defense where I am working on more involved, yet still routine tasks.
I find that music will give more of a noise coverage for conversations than spoken word. I favor classical music, particularly Music For The Mozart Effect, Volume 4, Focus & Clarity . I don’t know if I believe that Mozart can have the effect on the brain that the CD claims, but I do find the music soothing and it helps me tune out what is going on around me. I use this method when I am looking to block noise, but also design something.
Nature Sounds: The Ocean
Nature sounds are a good way to produce background noise without the risk of being drawn into something else. I favor Ocean Dreams since I find the rhythm of the waves soothing. The waves seem to generate more of a cover for excitable conversations. This is for high concentration tasks.
Pink noise is a great way to block out noise. I find that this particular recording covers even hyena-like laughter and conversations that vary greatly in volume. I use this when I have to concentrate fully on a very intricate task. My current pink noise was an Amazon download, and can be found at Pink Noise.
Things That Didn’t Make The List, And Why:
Regular podcasts. I listen to podcasts for information. This requires that I concentrate on what is being said, and consequently I cannot do anything that requires focus while listening to a podcast. I generally listen to podcasts while exercising, doing housework, or knitting.
New Audio Books. If I don’t know the book well enough to recite it, I will get drawn into the plot and the words will distract me from what I am trying to do. I listen to audio books much as I do podcasts.
Music: pop or things I have played. As a semi-pro classical musician, I cannot listen to recordings of things in my repertoire, or I will find myself following the score along in my head. This obviously does not lend itself to concentration on work. Likewise, the tempos and volume changes in pop pieces do not provide coverage of outside noise. I listen to my pop and other classical when I am at home or not trying to cover outside noises.
Nature Tracks with Music Overlays. I was once given a tape of forest sounds that was overlaid with new-agey type music. I found the experience disconcerting, like a band was following me on a hike in the woods.
By having my MP3 with me (and loaded with my noiseblockers) during all working hours, I have an effective tool to help me get my work done.
Photo by Orange_Beard