Can listening to ambient sounds make you more productive? Experiment with a Productivity501 giveaway!
Mark over at Productivity501 has created several sound files designed to help make it easier to concentrate on work. His idea is that listening to these can provide some "sonic space" that blocks out distracting office noise and conversations. I've been testing them out over the past few weeks (load them into iTunes then sync to my iPhone), and I've found them helpful, in my case, mostly in calming myself down enough to focus (I'm wound pretty tight). Each hour-long file is $5.00 each, and you can buy them at Mark's products page. Recommended.
After adding them to my productivity tool kit I got curious about studies of the interactions between performance and sounds, but a quick search on Google yielded up no easily-digested results. Beyond articles on mozart effect and music therapy, most relevant was a book on psychoacoustics (how sound affects the human nervous system) called The Power of Sound: How to Manage Your Personal Soundscape for a Vital, Productive, and Healthy Life. I love this passage (emphasis preserved):
Be aware of the power of sound; use it consciously. As with any substance, there can be positive and negative applications. Think of music and sound as thinking people's drugs. They can enhance, arouse or depress. Like food, water, wine, sex and pharmaceuticals, it all comes down to frequency and dosage. The question becomes: How often and how much? Applied to the effectiveness of auditory stimulation, as well as nervous system balance, the answer is always individual. This is the nature of sound: subtle, powerful, personal.
Clearly there's room for a time management study, but in the absence of any I encourage you to experiment. To help with that, Mark's kindly agreed to give a way a few copies of his files; just comment below if you're interested. Thanks Mark!