Simple Productivity Task Of The Day: Isolate Yourself

by Randy Murray on November 22, 2011

Here’s one more Simple Productivity Task Of The Day (SPTOTD) suggested by Michael Schechter (@mschechter): Use a pair of headphones, but play no music. Use them to reduce the surrounding noise and let you concentrate on a task.

This is an excellent and easy thing to do. You could certainly play music to help drown out the noise, but the music itself can be distracting. Using the headphones as earplugs can help to reduce the surrounding talk, noise, and distractions. You may need to do this if you work in a noisy office or in a crowded, noisy place like a coffee shop, or a subway or train — whenever you can’t be alone, but you still need to accomplish something.

I do recommend that you not so fully block your hearing so that you endanger your safety. Do not use headphones while walking, running, biking, or driving. You need to hear the distractions — it may save your life. If you must use music to motivate your workout, do it in a gym and on a treadmill, not on the open road.

There are many noise cancellation and noise reduction headphones available.  I use a set of Etymotic in-ear noise reduction headphones that work great, but they do take some getting used to. I got them at a Macworld a few years back. Dr. Mead Killion himself, the founder of Etymotic, jammed them deep into my ears (“Trust me. I’m a Doctor.”). You can find the current models here, along with a rather cool iOS app you can use to control the level of “awareness” of your surroundings you want to bleed through. Nifty.

Even standard ear buds can work. And there’s an added benefit: when you wear headphones, other people will tend not to interrupt you.

The Simple Productivity Task Of The Day: Isolate Yourself by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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Michael Schechter November 22, 2011 at 9:51 am

Thanks for sharing the tip! You couldn’t be more right on the need to find balance. In fact, I’ve once I break a pair into that perfect mix of mindful and noiseless, I use them to death… Might be time for Etymotics :)


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