« The Experiment-Driven Life | Main | Review my childish draft of "Think, Try, Learn: A scientific method for discovering happiness" »

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!

Reader Comments (16)

Sure, why not? It's not like I've got no room for improvement. :D

June 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDavid AP

Matt, could I get a free file from Mark? Perhaps the ocean or brook? I have looked at these particular sound files before but was uncertain of making the investment. No short sample tracks are available....


June 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJason

Jason: You're in the contest! [updated] I'll need your email, Jason.

David: You too. Heck, if there are no other replies, you two are golden.

Mark: I like Jason's suggestion of sample tracks.

Thanks guys.

June 3, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell


I'd love to experiment with a background sound which serves to cover distractions.

Count me in!


June 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRick Hamrick

A very interesting article, these sounds help improve spacial awareness, creating a focussed mind. I'm in! Thank you for sharing!

June 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTime Management Tips

Peter and Rick: Great - you are entered! I'll find your contact info on your sites if needed. Thanks a lot for stopping by.

June 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell

On my Facebook page, Chris Crouch (www.chriscrouch.typepad.com) pointed out the following relevant TED talk: Julian Treasure: The 4 ways sound affects us: http://www.ambientmusicblog.com/2009/10/20/ted-talk-julian-treasure-the-4-ways-sound-affects-us/

(Mark: May be of interest in promoting your work?)

June 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell


Please send me the file for experimentation. Aside from a folding screen, my work space at home has no means of being walled off from the comings and goings of my wife and my three daughters (and their friends!). When school is over and they come home, distraction sets in and productivity drops. If this audio file works on my situation, it will work anywhere!

June 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKen

Is there something else I need to do in order to try out the sound file which is designed to eliminate distractions, Matt? Haven't gotten any further indication as to how to proceed.

I'm at rickhamrick@gmail.com.


June 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRick Hamrick

... everyone who replied by today, 2010/06/15: Ken Becker, Rick Hamrick, Peter Thomson, Jason ??, and David A. Pickett. (Jason: I don't have your email.) Mark's generously offered to send you all one free file. Pick one from http://www.productivity501.com/products/ and email your choice to me at matthewcornell@gmail.com. Mark will send you the download link. Congratulations!

* Brook Ambient Sound MP3
* Ocean Ambient Sound MP3
* Rain Ambient Sound MP3
* Rain on a Lake Sound MP3

June 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell

I subscribed to live365.com and frequently listen to 'drumNbass' to drown out the chatter of my collegues during work. The real problem is that we're with eleven people in one room (office garden they call it) and regularly there are several conferences going on at the same time. Until I'll get my own workspace drowning the others out will have to do.


June 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBert Kraan

Thanks for the pointer to live365.com. Re: your noisy workspace, is it possible to go somewhere else part of the time? A spare conference room, say?

June 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell


September 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterviagra


September 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercialis


September 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterviagra


September 7, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercialis

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.