Boost Your Focus With A Little Noise

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Writers, as a general rule, either love or hate the idea of writing in cafes. Those that love it expound upon the joys of sitting with the blank page (or, nowadays, the computer screen) in a bustling environment, the excellent people-watching opportunities in most coffeeshops, and, of course, the caffeine jolt that stimulates the brain to write. For many, it can be easier to think through a difficult scene or get into the article writing zone in a cafe than it can in the quiet of a home office.

One major reason why this works: the noise factor. Cafes offer the right amount of ambient noise to comfort and soothe the writing brain, shut out the inner critic, and open the door to creativity. This isn’t a writing myth — it’s been scientifically proven. Next time you feel stuck, try boosting your focus and your productivity with a little noise.

How Ambient Noise Helps Article Writers

In 2012, a team of Canadian and American researchers published an article in the Journal of Consumer Research that examined the effects of ambient noise on creativity. They tested three noise levels: low (50 decibels), moderate (70 decibels), and high (85 decibels).

They found that moderate levels of ambient noise promoted creative thinking and actually made participants perform better on creative tasks. High levels of ambient noise were too distracting and impaired creativity, as any writer who regularly suffers through noisy neighbors can tell you.

White Noise Apps to Help

While you can always hit up your favorite local cafe when you want a focus-booster, daily lattes do get expensive. Instead, stay at home and bring the noise to you with apps that offer the right level of ambient noise. Top picks include:

  • Ambiance: With desktop, tablet, and phone apps, Ambiance allows you to select background noise from a library of over 3,000 free sounds. Tracks include cafes, beaches, marinas, and manufacturing plants. If you’re writing about a particular place, this app could help you get in the zone. The app costs $2.99; most sounds are free to download.
  • CoffitivityWebsite and app Coffitivity (as in coffee, not coffins) brings all the sounds of a coffeeshop to you. Select your preferred coffeeshop environment, from “Lunchtime Lounge” to “Paris Paradise.” While the basic Coffitivity is free, you’ll need a Premium account to access some sounds. Plans begin at $3.

Next time you find yourself stuck on a project, consider giving one of these apps a try or heading to your local coffeeshop for a noise boost. It just may help you shut out distracting thoughts, focus on writing your articles, and feel more confident and excited about the work you are doing.

Lindsey D is halfway through her novel revision and heads to cafes when she needs to hammer out a plot point or escape her inner critic. She’s also a fan of rock climbing gyms, bars with fireplaces, and taking long walks.


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