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Noise Levels and Work: Finding Your Sweet Spot

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What's your optimal level of noise? 

I have a friend named William who needs absolute silence when he studies.  He goes into a room, closes the door and reads.  Another friend, Sharon, can work with a higher level of noise.  Her preferred space for work is the coffee shop close to her house. 

I'm probably somewhere in the middle.  I don't mind some noise but I need space to zone out and get things done.

How about you? 

At what point do you slow down and see your work suffering as a result of the noise around you?  It could be a result of coworkers interruptions or enabled chimes on your laptop.  It could also be a result of the noise in your own head- distractions are something we all deal with.

In this way, work is similar to prayer in that we all have to find ways to dial back our internal noise.   For me, my role at work is often a distraction and one that I have to "work" to keep in place.  

Here's the deal- first, you'll want to identify the ideal levels of noise for your work productivity.   Are you more like Sharon or Will?  Or, maybe you're like me and you don't mind a bit of background noise?  Pay attention to the times in your week when you are especially productive.  How much noise was there?

Second, let's discuss some strategies for embracing your ideal noise levels.  Here are my three recommendations:

  •  Stop worrying so much about what others think about you when you work.  After all, the bottom line is to produce good work that matters to the organization.  If you work in a company that allows headphones, go for it.  If you are in a cubicle, see if some quiet background noise is allowed and then make it happen.  If you are a "total quiet" kind of worker, figure out spaces that allow for you to get alone and get quiet.
  • Be a person who suggests change and then participate in the progress.  Read here what 37 Signals does to promote a quiet workplace.  You could do that too. 
  •  Get into the zone as often as possible, with noise reduction as your ally.  What we are talking about is pretty important stuff- your career, family, social network, even your faith all depend on periods of time in which you can focus and get things done.  Figure out the noise stuff and you're one step closer to hitting it out of the park on a regular basis.

Is all of this relative?  Sure.  Is it vitally important to figure out and then repeat over and over again?  Absolutely. 

What's your ideal level of noise when you are hard at work? 

 *BTW, Craig Jarrow shared a link to a great (and free!) service called Coffitity.  Simple enough, Coffitity provides coffee shop background noise for when you work.  I've used it for a few days now and it's great! 

**photo courtesy of TMN