Putting on some headphones is a pretty universal sign to others that you’re working, or at least that you don’t want to be disturbed. But what do you play in said headphones when you’re trying to focus?
If I am doing chores around the house or running errands, I am probably listening to a podcast. If I am working out, probably some combination of 80’s power ballads and shitty pop music. But if I am working, recently I have been listening to noise, not music.
Noise vs. Music
Over the past decade, as I have been working on being a more productive person, I have experimented with many variables, including music types.
I started by listening to the soundtracks of video games, movies, and TV shows. If you think about it, these are pieces of music that are designed to focus the listener on the screen or at least build an atmosphere. I enjoyed this method for a while, but eventually, I got tired of certain songs and started spending too much time DJing instead of working.
I eventually switched to lo-fi hip-hop and ambient music mixes on Apple Music. Outsourcing the DJ work to Apple Music helped reduce my intellectual overhead, but then my weekly algorithmic playlists from Apple Music started getting filled with focus music.
About a year ago, I changed my strategy once more and started using the Dark Noise app to generate pleasant, unobtrusive sounds to block out distractions, and I have been loving it!
Of course, one of the things I love about Dark Noise is its automatability. I use it on my iPhone and iPad, so that means Shortcuts support. With just a few taps, I included the Play Noise action in my Pomodoro Timer.
While there are several noise presets in Dark Noise, you can also mix the sounds together to create your own custom soundscapes and save them for future use. While this might not seem like automation on the surface, creating custom mixes saves a bunch of time and really makes the app click for me.
How I use Dark Noise
I love hiking and exploring public lands, especially the streams in the Rocky Mountains. So I decided to create a custom sound mix in Dark Noise to transport me to a happy place while I work. My mix is called Working in the Wilderness; it is a mix of Creek, Windy Trees, and Birds.
To take this just a step further, I have created a shortcut that is on my Work focus mode home screen. It starts my Working in the Wilderness noise, switches playback to the HomePod mini in my office, and sets the volume to 45%.
Tranquility at the touch of a button!
Your mileage may vary, but I think listening to noise instead of music has been a great improvement to my ever-evolving work setup. I encourage you to try it out and see what you think.
If you don’t have another way of creating a noise mix you like, and you are in the Apple ecosystem, try Dark Noise. It’s a good app!
In the meantime, you can find me working here, at least mentally.