In today’s world, there are a number of distractions, seemingly created solely to divest our attention from normal life activities, like not walking into traffic. From Blackberry messaging to Google Glass, there’s always something in the way.
Although we don’t often consider it, or realize it, there are a number of sound-based distractions that creep into our daily lives and work. (Or, as Boris Karloff once said: ‘the Noise, Noise, Noise!” is all around us.) The better we can ward those off, the more focused and efficient we’re likely to be. (But, don’t just take my word for it: It’s science. Science! Science.)
Here are some tips to drown out the noise where you are:
–Be Quiet is a Firefox add-on that will silence one audio stream when another begins. Especially with the prevalence of website videos these days (which it’s very easy to stumble across), it is useful to have a device that will allow for this style of automatic muting. You’ll never have to listen to overlapping audio again . . . if you use Firefox. (And, why wouldn’t you, really?) There are some additional limitations, beyond those related to browser use, indicating that this extension needs some work to become fully functional; but, even a 50% quieter online environment is better than a 0% reduction. (Thanks to Ben Schorr for tipping me off to this, via one of his typically informative tweets.)
-If you keep the sound up on your computer, or smartphone, and you get a ping, or some other sound notification, that alerts you when a new email comes in, turn it off. (And, turn off the pop-up, as well, while you’re at it.) The sound itself will distract you; but, it will also make it more likely that you actually open the email, the arrival of which occasioned the noise — and then, you’re in the soup: once you open an email, and get off-task, it’s very hard to get back on.
-If you can find the private time when you don’t have to be available to others, but can draft or focus on a project without outside interruption for a settled time period, you might find that outside noises, whatever they may be (muffled conversations, a dripping coffee pot, even birds singing) may be just the inducement you need to snap your otherwise otherworldly concentration, and to procrastinate. If you’re the silent type, noise canceling headphones may be just what the doctor ordered. I’ve got a pair of Sony’s, which, I think, are a great value.
-When you can’t simply fall into the time to seclude yourself to work in quiet concentration, you may just find that you need to create it, to set off ‘power hours’ for yourself, which is when you do your best work, and your best thinking, and when you know you won’t be distracted: because you’ve asked not to be. Shut your office door, and block out the noise and distraction from the outside world for a little while. You’ll likely be surprised how much you can accomplish in a short space of time, especially if you avoid multi-tasking.
-Sometimes, it’s more about the sounds you do hear, than the sounds you don’t hear. Although noise canceling headphones work on a similar principle, you may prefer more traditional white noise-style soundscapes: waves crashing, whale songs or terrestrial forest sounds. Certainly, there’s an app for that . . . several, actually. ChatterBlocker offers a middle ground between noise cancellation and nature sounds; and, they’ve published an interesting (and lengthy) white paper on the effect of sounds in the office environment.
-Of course, if all else fails, you can enrobe your physical environment. Short of wrapping your head and ears with multiple layers of Northern quilted paper towels, you can make changes to your physical office space to keep it quieter. With insulation and tangible sound barriers, you can convert your office to your happy, quiet place. (Well, quiet, at least.) There will be a cost attached; but, after you outfit your office, you’re likely to see a significant reduction in entering noise. Then, you can add the moat.
For more on hidden tracks, nearly buried beneath several moments of silence, peep this gigantic listing. And, while it was harder to find, here’s a good discussion/list of tunes featuring in-song silences.