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

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I have been writing for Lockergnome for eight years.