Why Noise Can Increase Your Productivity

Back in the day, when I was still young and had all the answers, I remember doing my homework while listening to the latest and greatest tunes on the radio. Like parents today, my dad would come by my room to see what I was doing, all the while commenting on how no one could concentrate “with all that racket going on.” However, what I don’t think he understood was that I could actually study better with the background noise of music. Of course, being a kid, I could have just been using that as an excuse to listen to the latest groups on the radio.

So what does this have to do with today or with current technology? Well, Bob Fogarty, our chief editor here at Lockergnome, provided me with a link to a new type of siren that some police agencies are using. This new siren is called the ‘Rumbler’ siren, and it was created to emit a rush of air onto the roadway, in conjunction with the standard blaring siren. This newest technology allows pedestrians and vehicle drivers to actually feel the noise if they are unable to hear the emergency vehicle’s siren due to distractions inside of their vehicles such as loud music, children roughhousing, babies crying, or cellphones.

There are two reasons that I think background noise is beneficial to those who are trying to concentrate. They are:

  1. For me, background noise actually helps me to focus on one specific topic rather than being distracted by other things going on in the area.
  2. Second, if a room is too quiet, I find that my mind tends to wander from subject to subject — often to areas that have nothing to do with what I am supposed to be working on.

So how can one prove this theory of mine? Picture this. You are out in the woods, alone, just listening to the sounds of the forest. Birds are chirping, leaves are rustling under your feet, animals are scurrying about the forest floor, and the other sounds of nature surround you. You are relaxed and thinking about how good life is for you. All of a sudden, there is silence and everything becomes very quiet and still. What is the first thing your mind thinks of? In this reverse scenario, the silence is nature’s way of alerting us to some type of danger that we may not be able to see or hear for ourselves.

If you haven’t been in a forest to experience this for yourself, I am sure that we have all seen a movie or two in which a group of people are walking in a forest when one person stops and asks the others to listen. The group states that they do not hear anything and the genius of the group announces that it isn’t normal for the sounds of the forest to be silenced unless there is imminent danger. In other words, quiet in nature means trouble is around.

So does this mean that isolating ourselves from any type of noise and being completely quiet is bad for us? Not at all. In some circumstances, a quiet environment can be beneficial and help us to expand our thoughts and minds. In fact, it is probably just a matter of how you learned to study as a child. I know my wife does better when everything is totally quiet. She is distracted whenever the TV or music is playing and can’t focus on her job. Does it make it difficult for us to share one office? Sometimes, but because of our different styles, we try to do our creative work when the other is busy doing something that doesn’t require concentration. However (maybe because we are getting older), the noise of small children can be very distracting, preventing either of us from getting too much accomplished. At the same time, we know that others who work from home need to hear their children playing in order to accomplish the task at hand. Remember, we all know that when children are quiet, we had better check up on them to see what they are up to!

So the Rumbler siren seems likes a perfect device to get a driver’s attention if they are one of the many who need a physical interaction to penetrate their concentration and/or background noise. However, I can’t imagine feeling something like an earthquake and not knowing what I have just encountered until the emergency vehicle lights attract my attention.

This is what makes us all different and unique.

Comments, as always, are welcome.

CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by elmada

Article Written by

I have been writing for Lockergnome for eight years.

  • ronyan

    Also as a side benefit the streets will be swept clean! Brilliant…maybe.

    • Cody

      It’s not AS “rumbly” as he plays it out to be, go out to your car, turn up the volume to about 3/4, and listen to a bass heavy song. That’s about as much “Rumble” that there is. -Your Friendly not so neighborhood Firefighter 

  • TheDutchGuy

    I like to have music on, can’t live/work without my music. Even if I have to study, I have music on. It gets me into the momentum of what I’m doing. Without it, I tend to slow down and do a bunch of others things instead of what I supposed to be doing… So give me my musical noise, please! 

  • Mohamed Hisham Hadjazi

    I can only study in the library or in a very quiet place. I’m very productive in the local library, 1 hour in there is like 1 day at home.

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  • Cafaleem

    I am VERY easily distracted. People talking, smartphones making game noises (turn the volume off or wear headphones when you’re playing Hangin’ With Friends in public, peeps!), The Brain Waves Entrainment app by Banzai Labs works well for me; I find a program that is appropriate to the situation (deep relaxation, mental productivity, etc), and turn up the volume. All that white noise blocks out any distractions, voices, etc… I find that I am easily lost in my work when I put the headphones on; I realize how *noisy* the environment that I was in when was I turn off the application. I first started using it in the library, of all places. You think the library is a quiet place to study?? It’s the worst freakin’ place in the world! People can be SO inconsiderate. Even the librarians are loud! WTF! I was experiencing anxiety and at the edge of being angry with anyone who could not keep themselves quiet until I started cranking up the white noise and humming of the Brain Waves app. I can actually hear myself think now, and I no longer need to wonder whether or not my boyfriend will post bail if I get arrested for literally throwing the book at someone! 

  • http://twitter.com/JodiKrohn Jodi Krohn

    Interesting. Quiet vs noise. I have always been sensitive about television at night. I didn’t like the noise. Quiet at night was soothingly magical after exhausting and intense work days. Recently I have suffered sleep difficulties and started watching Turner Classic or old Westerns in the middle of the night. (I am appalled at myself actually.) But, it seems to help me fall back to sleep. And, to my surprise, my doctor assured me it was okay. Watching something simple and “mindless” can help you relax, take your mind off issues, and go back to sleep.

  • http://twitter.com/RCToyPalace Dennis Coble

    I can usually only function well in quiet. Even to the point of having on ear on the phone, any noise for the other ear cancels out hearing any conversation oer the phone.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kyle.kimberlin Kyle Kimberlin

    The sound of a rushing mountain stream is flowing from my PC speakers as I type this. My iPod has a good selection of white noise nature sounds. That comes in handy for working in public. At bedtime, there’s a CD player with similar sounds to help me sleep. But sometimes the best thing for working is The Grateful Dead. And quiet is nice when I can get it! :) 

  • http://www.mohanarun.com/ Mohan Arun L

    A study in the Journal of Consumer Research says that working in coffee
    shops and other moderately noisy places boosts creativity. The researchers explain that A moderate (vs. low) level of noise, is expected to distract people without significantly affecting the extent of processing. “Further, we reason that such a moderate distraction, which induces processing difficulty, enhances creativity by prompting abstract thinking.”


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