How To Use Sound To Increase Your Focus

By Thomas Hart on August 2, 2020

Getting work done at home can be a challenge for those not used to it. Our brains can find it challenging to focus on our work for many different reasons, but the biggest reason is distraction. Using sound to limit the distractions surrounding you can be an instrumental tool in getting your work done, and here I’ll give some of my personal recommendations for sounds that can help you stay focused.

Working mostly from home can be a challenge, especially if you have noisy family. Image source:

When it comes to how I choose to listen to these sounds, I always reach for a pair of headphones. Speakers can be nice, but headphones are better because they practically wrap you in the sounds that are playing and limit how much else you can hear. Unlike speakers which can only drown out distracting noise, headphones can help to block it entirely. If you have a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, like the Sony wh-1000xm3, that is even better, but even if you do not, the passive noise-cancelling seal the headphones create by being over your ear or inside of it will go a long way in protecting your brain from the distracting noise outside.

So, what kinds of sounds should you be playing? It will mostly depend on your preferences, but first let us talk about music. When it comes to playing music, I find myself going for something instrumental or with very little vocals, especially if I am reading or writing something. I also usually play it on repeat or find one of those 30 minute or 1 hour extended versions of the song on YouTube, mostly because constant change of the song sometimes distracts my brain too much (I am easily distracted, though, so that may not be necessary for you). I also try to pick a song that is not high energy. A song that is relaxing or otherwise very chill is what I typically find to be the best to work with for music. Funnily enough, I used a song called “Heaven” on Spotify to study for my final exams just this past week, which does have lyrics, but is so subzero in its chill that I found it very easy to work with.

Another kind of music I have often used to work with is lo-fi. It became so popular that it became a bit of a meme, but personally I still find many of the mixes found on YouTube to be excellent for studying with, writing to, or generally using to narrow your focus. The artwork found on many lo-fi videos also helps me focus for whatever reason. Perhaps the slice-of-life quality they typically have calms my nerves and puts me in that space to want to finish my work.

Fun fact: this article was written while a lo-fi mix was playing in the background.

There are things you can play other than music, of course. Videos with nature sounds are very easy to find on YouTube, whether you want a soothing forest sound or a drizzling thunderstorm. Many years ago, I used the sounds of relaxing coffee shop to help me focus.

Since we are not able to go to a real coffee shop anymore, why not try to simulate the sounds of one? Image source:

But if all else fails, if I really need to do work and I can’t stop getting distracted, I pull out my secret weapon: noise. Different kinds of “colored” noise, such as pink noise, white noise, or my personal favorite, brown noise, is a great tool for drowning out all other sounds with something so static your brain will tune it out almost immediately. It is the ultimate focus tool, and some people even use the sound to help go to sleep.

Those are a few ways that you can use sound to drown out distractions and hone your focus. What ultimately works for you will come down to your preferences and personality, and you will likely need to experiment with different tracks and types of sounds until you find your groove.

Hi, my name is Thomas Hart, and I'm a junior creative writing student at Florida State University. Escapist by nature, I love to write about all things geek and fantasy, video games, technology, and funny stories of just the daily shenanigans I see on my college campus. I'm a natural storyteller, which makes my job here at Uloop all the more easy.

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