Using Music and Sounds for Better Focus
Are you currently leveraging the power of ambient noise to work more efficiently?
Your auditory environment plays a huge role in staying focused and productive while doing knowledge work. You’ve probably already noticed, for example, how sudden noises so easily distract you and take your attention off the task at hand.
And the wrong type of noise can be throw you off for hours…
Whether studying for Finals, plowing through a stuffed inbox, or writing an article under deadline, it’d be virtually impossible to focus sitting alongside a screaming freeway or a thundering rock concert.
And with all the bells and whistles of modern technology surrounding us, we almost never have a truly quiet moment…
But What If Noise Could Also Become an Asset to Your Work?
What if I told you certain types of background noise or music could actually help you stay focused and get more productive?
Keeping your energy high. Drowning out the world to help cultivate tunnel vision for the work in front of you.
And helping you maintain a persistent drive to move forward.
Take it from Dr. Masha Godkin, a professor in the of Northcentral University. “Music has the potential to take a person from the Beta brainwave state to deeper Alpha, and then Theta brainwave states, depending on the music,” he explains.
“Music activates both the left and right brain at the same time, and the activation of both hemispheres can maximize learning and improve memory.”
Different Styles Of Music Are Great For Putting You In A Different States Of Mind.
Here are a few different styles you can use to get in the right mood while working to stay more focused on the task at hand.
Ambient Noise for Work #1: Classical Music
Listening to classical music is a great way to wind down any time you want to relax and let the stress of the day fall away. But research also shows it can increase brain activity – not to mention its benefits for health and well being.
Since there aren’t any lyrics to distract you either, classical music is really a no-brainer when it comes to choosing ambient noise for work.
Note: By the way, Cambridge Sound management reports that up to 48% of office workers maybe be distracted by speech.
Some of my favorites classical music resources for focus include:
- “Four Seasons “by Vivaldi.
- Bach Classical Study Playlist
- Classical Music for Studying: Mozart, Beethoven, Bach Study Music Playlist for Better Concentration
- 6-Hour Mozart Piano Classical Music Studying Playlist: Great Beautiful Long Pieces
Ambient Noise for Work #2: Cinematic Music
Cinematic music is a highly underrated mechanism for lifting your spirits, brightening your mood, and giving you a soaring feeling of empowerment.
Think about it…
Movie companies pay big bucks to develop soundtracks that keep us highly engaged and on the edge of our seats for hours at a time. They’ve mastered the art of tapping into our most primal motivational drives.
So, whether you’re feeling tired and drained or just want to knock out a few hours of deep work, try listening to “Star Wars” or “Rocky” soundtracks to get in an ultra-productive zone. Some other cinematic soundtracks to make you feel like a straight-up superhero include:
- The Dark Knight
- The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings
Ambient Noise for Work #3: Video Game Music
Any hardcore gamer can tell you that video game music is core to the experience of becoming absorbed in another world. Why not use it to become absorbed in the world of work?
Much like in cinema, the Video Game industry puts a lot of thought into developing soundtracks to keep you focused and excited – you might even say “hooked.” These types of musical compositions can become a giant asset if you want ambient noise to keep you motivated so you can fight through the challenges of your workday.
You may find your own favorites but a few worth mentioning are:
- Mega man
- Super Mario
- Final Fantasy
Ambient Noise for Work #4: Bring the Sounds of the World to You
The soothing sound of waves crashing on the shore…
The gentle, lighthearted murmur of the local coffee…
The musical patter of rain on leaves…or a bubbling waterfall…
Sounds like these actually have a soothing effect on the brain. An effect that can help drown out distracting noises, like your family chattering away or the tapping of a keyboard. Even the empty void sometimes created by dead silence.
While it may not appeal to everyone, studies show background noises like this can actually be used in place of music to enhance mood and focus.
A phenomenon called stochastic resonance describes how background noise can improve concentration and decision-making ability. So using nature and ambient noises instead of background beats can be a great way to stay in the zone.
By the Way, We Have a Free Tool for That:
Our handy media player at RainyCafe plays open loop tracks for your convenience – one is the sound of falling rain and the other replicates the soothing murmur of a coffee shop. Play both at once if you like.
Bonus Ambient Noise for Work Tip: Turn Up the Tempo
Need a little more oomph?
It turns out that music at a 50 to 80 beats per minute pace can help you learn and boost your creativity and logical thinking skills.
Dr. Emma Gray, a cognitive behavioral therapist researcher hired by Spotify, found that music set in the 50 to 80 Bpm range puts the brain into an alpha state and even has a very significant impact on math test scores.
The alpha state is a much more relaxed state of mind that leaves us far more receptive to new information and experiences while improving memory and intuition. The alpha state is the state of mind we think of when we say someone is “in the zone.”
One of my favorites high-tempo tunes is:
- Drop That Funky Soul by Belabouche (80 Bpm)
How About Leveraging the Power of Your Own Favorite Songs?
Listening to tunes you like can make you feel better, and it’s obviously easier to focus if you’re in a good mood.
University of Miami professor Teresa Lesiuk, a specialist in music therapy, discovered results often improved if subjects chose their own music.
Not only did their self-chosen songs leave them in a better mood but they had better ideas and got things done faster.
Unfortunately, not everyone has the same taste, so this is not recommended while working in large groups. But it’s a perfect way to leverage ambient noise for work at home.
What About Music You Actually DISLIKE?
It sounds counter-intuitive, but some people work better when listening to music they aren’t really all that crazy about.
Or even music they slightly dislike…
What? How can that be?
Well, researchers from Fu Jen Catholic University in Taiwan revealed that whether workers strongly liked or disliked the background music, they became more distracted rather than more engaged with their work. In other words, music that polarizes too much in either direction can become a distraction in some cases, leading to less focus.
It makes sense the more you think about it. “Your song” might lead you to singing and completely forgetting what you’re doing…
On the other hand, think of how sometimes a song that bores you (without driving you nuts) can fill the silence without pulling you out of your work. Kind of like leaving the TV on for background noise when you’re home alone.
My most common song lists for work have zero tracks I could recall by name. Sort of just chill music that I could live without.
A Few More Tips to Consider About Ambient Noise for Work:
- The volume of the music obviously plays a large role in its utility for focus. You don’t want music so loud that it overpowers your senses. It’s meant to be background noise to set a mood – not a rock show or big night out at the orchestra. This might seem obvious, but if you find the music distracting you a lot, try just turning it down and letting it fade into the background more.
- Remember, ambient noise isn’t just about filling the silence when working or studying at home alone. Popping in your headphones can also be a great tool for drowning out a more chaotic environment and stepping into your own little world. You might also consider getting some noise-canceling headphones.
- In a recent article, we also talked about the power of work rituals to get you in the zone every time you sit down at your computer. Much like listening to the same song every time you step into the gym, if you teach your brain to associate certain songs with deep work and flow, you can use them to fire the right synapses on command.
Check Out Our Free Ambient Noise Tool at RainyCafe
If you’ve yet to find the music or soundtrack that inspires you to reach your maximum potential, we have a cool little tool you can use anytime you want.
RainyCafe has endless looping play functions with two different tracks.
One gives you the comforting sounds of a mellow coffee shop. The other a gentle rain. You can listen to whichever you prefer or play them both at once.
Check it out at http://RainyCafe.com.