Silence is golden — and I’m not just talking about in the movie theaters. I’m talking about your work environment or any silence and productivity time you need to think deeply about something.
As it turns out, a quiet environment is the way to go to get your best work done. But, how do you escape the noise and find times of silence throughout the day? What do you do if you can’t shut off what’s going on in the background?
The benefits of silence
This might be surprising, but one of my favorite things to listen to in the car is… nothing! Well — nothing or Taylor Swift.
But you’ll usually find me on the way to pick up the girls from daycare sitting in silence. I’ve found that turning off the T Swift for a little while and just being alone with my thoughts has resulted in some of the best ideas and “a-ha!” moments.
Ideas for chapters in my book came to me in the quiet. Ideas for teaching in the It’s About Time Academy. I mean, even the idea for this very episode came to me during one of my quiet rides to pick up the girls.
And I’m not alone here. Certain studies have shown that longer periods of silence can increase brain cells and productivity and can have a big impact on our mental health because it helps us relax or slow down.
And when we don’t have that silence? Our concentration levels drop…big time! Our brains constantly receive sensory input, and when it becomes too much, aka sensory overload, it can be hard to get back on track.
That’s because it impacts the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in direct attention, problem-solving, and high-order thinking. So more distractions increase your chances for mental fatigue because your brain is working hard to catch up to your desired level of focus.
Silence can boost creativity
Productivity isn’t the only thing silence can help you with — it can also help boost your creativity. A study done in 2013 by psychologist Jonathan Smallwood found that our creativity levels are greatly influenced by our ability to disengage from our external environment. This is because much of creativity stems from our ability to let our minds wander.
Even Albert Einstein and Sir Isaac Newton famously worked alone and in silence for most of their lives — and while they weren’t what you’d traditionally call creative, they were some of the greatest minds in human history.
How to carve out moments of silence and productivity in a busy day
Ok so we know silence is truly golden now. But what if you have several “things” running in the background, things you can’t necessarily just turn off — like your toddlers playing in the background or your dogs barking whenever they see the mailman come around?
How can you create moments of silence into a busy (and loud) day?
You may not be able to eliminate all distractions, but by switching up your environment when you can, you can get more done. And I’ve got a few ways to help you do that!
Change up your environment
It can be really hard to focus when you’re in the room with others who may be watching TV or working at a noisy coffee shop. But the easiest way to cut out the noise and eliminate distractions is to physically get away from them.
Maybe take your work outside or on the front porch. Go to your local library for a few hours. Even lock yourself in your bedroom if you have to. A change in environment — like moving to a quiet space — can help so much.
And if you can’t totally change your environment, try making small changes like turning off your notifications and silencing your phone. You may even consider leaving it in the other room.
Start high-focus times with meditation or prayer
Sometimes the noisiest thing is our mind, not our environment. Starting a high-focus session that’s going to require all of your attention with meditation or prayer can calm your mind and help you get started.
I’m a huge fan of both the Headspace and Calm apps. You can pick a quick meditation or breathing exercise that will help you tame all of the thoughts bouncing around in your head before you embark on your focus session.
There’s no one right way to do this, but if it’s something you’re interested in doing,, start with 5 minutes. Then next week add on 5 more. And keep adding until you find that sweet spot that helps you ease into focus.
Use your headphones
When you can’t step away from a noisy environment, your headphones are your best friend!
I don’t use noise-canceling headphones, but if silence is impossible at that moment, I’ll pop in my AirPods and listen to brown noise. That’s a fancy way of saying ambient background noise (not music).
Actually, there are three main types of noises: white noise, pink noise, and brown noise. Think of white noise as the noise of the fan, radiators, a/c units, running in the background, and is good for general sound masking.
Pink noise is light or gentle rain, wind, leaves rustling, and is better for sleep. And brown noise, which is my favorite and what I use to stay focused, are stronger pink noises, like the sounds of strong waterfalls or thunderstorms. It’s also the best one for focus, so if silence isn’t an option, brown noise may be the next best thing for you.
Perfect silence isn’t the goal. Less noise is!
I know it’s not exactly realistic to get away from noise all the time, but the main thing to remember is to try to find times of silence when you can. Even if it’s just for a few minutes every day, those pockets of quiet time can make a big difference on what you can get marked off your to-do list.
In this episode, we talk about:
- The science behind silence and productivity
- Why background noise may be keeping you from being productive
- 3 ways to carve out silence in your everyday life so you can stay focused
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