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Background Noise or No?

This article doesn't entirely ring true for me, but I think it's interesting. I like my noise in particular ways, on certain days, and for specific types of work. Most days though I prefer silence or some easy listening music in the background. An open office would most likely cripple me.

Late in the afternoon when I'm done doing the heaviest thinking lifting, I'll head out for a coffee, a change of scenery, and some noise. At that point, I am doing work that is taskier and more methodical in nature such as drafting notes, writing particular emails, or running numbers. And as a matter of fact, that is where I do the taskier work best. But for intuitive, creative, thoughtful thinking, I need quiet and little distraction. Otherwise, I can't really hear myself...

How about you?

Why Coffee Shops Boost Creativity. (Post by David Burkus)

Freelancers, creatives, and the work-from-home-set have long held the local coffee shop (or chain) as their secondary, semi-private office. You arrive, order a drink, set your stuff down, and many times enter into to a flow-like state of work, only to be interrupted when your cups runs dry or your battery runs out. Many even believe they are more productive or more creative when working from coffee shops–and they could be right.

But it’s not the caffeine that does it. It’s the background noise.

In a recently published study in the Journal of Consumer Research, a team of professors led by Ravi Mehta at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign explored the effects of various levels of background noise on individual creative thinking(link is external). The researchers divided participants into four teams and subjected each team to background noise at a different volume (50 decibels, 70 decibels, 85 decibels and a control of no background noise). They asked each participant to complete a Remote Associates Test, a commonly accepted measurement of creative thinking. When they tabulated the results, the researchers found that those in the moderate-noise condition outperformed those in all the other conditions, hence moderate-noise was amplifying their creative output.

The study’s results imply what many freelancers already know, that locking yourself off from the world to try to break a creative block in your work may not be the right method. Instead, consider leaving your normal routine and finding a semi-noisy environment to settle down into and let your creativity flow like $4 lattes.

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