Listen up: A ‘sound’ approach to increased productivity

Do you like taking your laptop down to your favorite coffee shop to work? Do you feel like you’re at your most productive in that environment?

Well, I don’t know if you can recreate your favorite beverage at home or the office break room, but you can recreate that distinctive high-trafficked coffee shop sound.

Coffee shop is one of the ambient sounds available via the Noisli website and app. Noisli also has all the standard background sounds – wind, water, waves, etc.

It seems like there are three approaches to boosting productivity via sound:

  • Ambient or white noise sound generators that mask distracting sounds, which improves your ability to concentrate,
  • Music styles that engage your brain, acting as a cognitive stimulus, and
  • Other styles of music – notably mellow New Age music – that operate somewhere between engaging music and masking ambient sound.

I don’t know if my categories are totally scientifically sound, but I do know that science supports the notion that background music or sounds can improve productivity. Companies have been pumping music and white noise into their work areas for many years to help get the most out of their employees.

Protect your hearing!

Many workers a generation or so younger than myself swear by techno or hip hop. They pump their music into their heads at what I consider ear-splitting volumes. (And please, no matter what your preference is, keep the volume attenuated, especially if you’re using headphones of any kind. Trading a little extra productivity today for hearing problems tomorrow isn’t a fair exchange.)

For many of us, one of the biggest hurdles to overcome is to remember to cue up the sounds or music, especially if we work at home a lot. If you habitually multitask – which you shouldn’t – you can get distracted and forget to provide yourself with the ideal working environment, including music or ambient sound.

Choosing an ambient sound is fairly simple, you just need to find the ones that do the best job for you. I’ve already mentioned Noisli as a sound source. Tyler Hayes has penned a good article over on FastCompany that reviews three good ambient sound apps. Music is more challenging to deal with…and more prone to cause arguments in shared workspaces.

Mostly Mozart works well

Generally, instrumental music is preferred to vocals, and classical music, like Mozart, has always scored well when scientists have tested which music works best to improve brain function. If you browse the “productivity” playlists on Spotify, you’ll see that they lean heavily toward instrumental music. If you want great classical music and are an Amazon Prime member, Amazon has some wonderful free classical playlists and channels available that you can enjoy without the ads you get on Spotify.

Will the right background sound increase double your productivity, no, but it will make a noticeable difference.


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