Since last summer, I've been on a semi-constant search for "noise" generators to help improve my productivity. I think I first came across the concept of background noise being used to help improve concentration, and thus productivity, when I ran across focus@will and coffitivity.com. Apparently studies have been done to show that the background noise generated in a typical coffee shop can help you stay focused on a task that requires some mental concentration. Meanwhile, focus@will operates on the theory that certain types of music are more suitable for certain types of situations, like trying to focus on a task.
It doesn't stop with coffee shops though. There are all kinds of sound generators out there, not only to aid concentration and focus, but to help people relax, fall asleep, and probably other stuff. My favorites tend to be the sounds of thunderstorms or rain.
At my office, lately I've taken to using noisli.com as they have a nice selection of sounds. I've combined that with turning off the overhead lights in the office and relying on the natural light that makes its way in. This has definitely been an effective combination to help get me into "the zone" when needed.
At home is another issue though, especially when I end up working in the den (like I am now) with the laptop on my lap or when I want to read. Normally I have the TV on and like many people, tend to let myself get sucked into watching something completely meaningless (and often something I've already seen). That tends to make it hard for me to concentrate. With all of the other activity that frequently goes on at the same time, trying to use something like noisli.com's thunderstorm and rain is difficult. Plus, if I decide to do something else, like read, I really don't want to leave my laptop on and running.
To try to combat the concentration problem at home, I've decided to dub the next few months the summer of baseball (yes, even though spring just started). Since Opening Day, unless I am specifically watching a show on TV (like CSI last night), I have been finding Major League Baseball games on TV and set the volume to 50-70% of what I would normally have it at.
Why baseball? I like college baseball as those who know about my annual trek to the ACC Baseball Tournament to (it seems without fail) watch a marathon NCSU game. I also enjoy going to watch baseball live. For instance, last year I took the family to a Myrtle Beach Pelicans game during our vacation and next week I have a MINI event planned that includes a Winston Salem Dash game.
However, I've never really gotten into Major League Baseball and unless it is someone I am really interested in, like NCSU or the ACC or NCAA tournaments, I tend to not get into baseball on TV. I started thinking that the lack of interest combined with the low volume might be similar to the noise generated by a coffee shop could be a winning combination for my concentration.
Interestingly enough, when I investigated using MLB games at the office, I was stymied by MLB's pay-to-view model. The have been having a free game streaming over the Internet every day, but thus far the only time it was on during a time that would be useful to me, the game was rained out.
My initial impression is that my theory is correct. I feel like I'm able to concentrate better and stay on task rather than getting my attention diverted. When my attention has been diverted, it has been one of the three times I've already seen where a batter lost their grip sending their bat into the crowd.
Those instance also taught me that ballparks apparently have different rules about whether you get to keep the bat.
I'll see how it goes for the rest of the summer. And maybe being force fed all this MLB baseball will help pique a little more interest on my part.