Do you find yourself constantly distracted by everything going on around you and having a hard time concentrating on what you’re doing? The solution is noise-cancelling headphones. Whether you’re in a café with a crying baby two tables away, the office with noisy chatter in the cubicle next to you or at home with the dog constantly barking, headphones will do the trick.
But headphones are only part of the solution. This is because if you play music you know, whether it has lyrics or not, you will likely be distracted by it to some degree. So instead of listening to your favorite songs, band or even genre, branch out a bit and try something different – you might be surprised how much it really helps.
Focus With Different Sounds, From Rain To Coffee Shops
One method you can use is sounds, whether its rain and thunder, a trickling creek, birds, etc., there are a lot of nature sounds available. In addition to those, there are also plenty of other noises like ones from a coffee shop, or even just white noise.
Rainy Mood is a website that instantly plays the sound of rain, accompanied by thunder and the subtle chirping of birds. Tina has shared about RainyMood before and it’s great for an instant solution to focusing sounds. There isn’t a limit to the audio, the interface is clean and there’s even a video of the day, which features a song that sounds great accompanied by the sound of rain.
If you want to control the volume, there’s a one-button toggle at the bottom of the page that you can use to take the volume from high to medium to low to mute, and then back to high.
Rainy Mood is also available as a mobile for Android and iOS, both of which cost $4.99. The Rainy Mood website does have a mobile version, however, and if you don’t need the features of the apps, it is sufficient.
SounDrown features the sound of rain, like Rainy Mood, but instead of just rain, it also features sounds of other environments, like coffee shops, waves crashing on a beach, trains, crickets, white noise, fountains, and even kids. The interface certainly is up to the quality of Rainy Mood, but if you’re looking for a bit more variety of sounds, it’s a decent option.
iSerenity has actually been mentioned before on MakeUseOf by Jackson. Since that article, it looks like it has undergone changes. The interface isn’t the greatest and looks half finished… or half torn apart. However, the sounds work and that’s what matters, right? There are various sound themes, from rainforests, to waterfalls to… hairdryers and vacuums. There are 21 sounds in all.
SimplyNoise specializes in “colored” noise, like white noise, pink noise and brown noise. Basically the colors represent varying octaves – white is the highest, brown is the lowest. Aside from these three colored controls, there are also two other buttons for oscillation and a timer.
SimplyRain is a SimplyNoise website that does exactly what the name implies – simply plays sounds of rain. In addition to the volume, oscillation and timer controls that it and SimplyNoise both have, it also has controls to toggle thunder sounds and adjust the intensity of the rain.
When I tried to load both SimplyNoise.com and SimplyRain.com on a mobile browser, they didn’t load completely. There are however, mobile apps for both iOS and Android that are only $0.99. In addition to the mobile apps, you can also download 6 different sounds after donating any amount from as little to $1.00 to $10.00 or more.
NatureSoundPlayer.com has a simple interface and features 8 different sounds from nature. There aren’t any titles, of these sounds though. Instead, there is an image that describes each sound. For instance, “waves” has a picture of waves and a beach; “campfire” has a picture of flames, and so on.
You’re also able to play multiple sounds at a time, allowing you to create your own mix.
A website similar to the previous one is NatureSoundsFor.Me, which allows you to mix four different sounds, but features many to choose from. Seriously, the selection is impressive and they don’t just stop at “nature sounds”. They also include ones such as tribal drums, heart beat, several kinds of birds and other animals, holiday tunes, even… wait for it… Darth Vader.
In addition to the variety of sounds and the ability to mix 4 of them, you also have controls for each sound that allow you to adjust the volume, balance (right and left speakers) and intervals. The interval feature allows you to break up the sound to add more variance to the mix. If you want to mute everything without having to drag each volume control down and messing up your mix, just click the speaker button in the bottom left corner to pause it.
You’re also able to save the mix as a link or export it as a file to share with others or access it later without having to remake it. You’re also able to search compositions created by others by “Top”, “Newest” or “By Sounds”.
WhiteNoise 24/7 has been mentioned before on MakeUseOf by Tina. However, contrary to it’s name, WhiteNoise 24/7 doesn’t just do white noise, but also nature and mechanical sounds. These different sounds are located under the tabs at the top titled, Unlimited, Nature and Mechanical. The Unlimited tab features pink and white noise, as well as the sounds of rain, shower and vents. As the title of this page implies, there’s no limit to these sound tracks.
The Nature Sounds page features the sounds of a flowing river, hard rain, ocean waves and rain with the sounds of large droplets. Mechanical Sounds feature a ventilator, dishwasher, washing machine, static and shower.
Several of these sounds are also actually available for free downloads.
Unlike many of these websites, Coffitivity has a nice, clean, and modern interface. But that’s not all that counts – its sound is great too. It’s simply coffee shop sounds – that’s it. The idea behind Coffitivity is that the ambient sound of coffee shops (and similar places) combined with music help inspire creativity.
You’ll see on your website that they specifically say Coffitivity isn’t meant to be listened to by itself, but combined with the music you listen to. They even provide a helpful graphic displaying the volume level that Coffitivity should be at in comparison to your music.
In addition, they also have a lot of interesting information and link to a huge study that was done to show how the ambient sounds help inspire us creatively.
Incorporate “Focus Music” Into Your Workflow
But what about music? What if sounds just aren’t your thing? I personally don’t mind sounds – but at the same time, it’s nice to have a change. However, remember what I said in the second paragraph of this article about the problem with lyrical music causing distractions? Yeah – I definitely have that problem. There are two websites specifically geared toward providing music and beats that will help you stay focused.
I actually discovered Focus@Will through Justin’s article, and since then have been addicted – it’s awesome. The idea behind Focus@Will is to play music that has no lyrics, doesn’t demand your attention, allows you to constantly focus and perhaps is a complete different genre that you aren’t used to, but you still enjoy.
Focus@Will has eight different genres. I find myself listening to the Up Tempo one the most, but all are fantastic. The website is simple and all of the controls are nice and big, instead of being hidden and hard to spot. The controls include a loop mode, which starts a 100 minute productivity cycle (great for a focused time block); play/pause; next song, which won’t play that same song again; volume; and a genre dropdown menu.
The Focus@Will blog has a lot of great information about how to induce focus with music – even the volume matters. They’re also growing and are still in Beta, but will be launching mobile apps soon.
NOTE: Focus@Will is currently only available for Chrome browsers.
In addition, refer to some of Justin’s thoughts from his article featuring Focus@Will:
Focus@Will plays no ads, and during its beta it’s also absolutely free. Will that change in the future? Probably, and because of the nature of the app itself I doubt advertising will play a role – they would almost certainly break the cycle of focus the app is trying to create.
Get Work Done Music is an even simpler website than Focus@Will. Upon going to the website, it’s user-ready. It just streams upbeat and primarily non-lyrical music from SoundCloud. Nothing really to learn about it and hardly any controls. There are four buttons: play/pause, Fast and Faster buttons, and a “next song” button called “gimme the next one cap’n”
Pro Tip: Combine The Two Types
This tip has already been introduced to you in the section about Coffitivity, but that isn’t the only website you can use this with. Perhaps you want to combine some Classical tunes from Focus@Will with some nature sounds – just have both websites open. The idea is fairly simple really, but I want to give Coffitivity all the credit, as I likely wouldn’t have thought it, had they not mentioned it first.
This works! I’m doing it right now and I use these methods literally every time I write. Having variety is nice though because despite being able to vary things up a bit on one particular website, having other ones to choose from helps to mix things up a bit.
You may have noticed that this article focuses primarily on websites. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t mobile apps out there that do this – there just weren’t any that really stood out to me. A while back Jackson covered nine iPhone apps that help you sleep, although these can likely help you focus too. Don’t be discouraged though – there are Android apps available. Look through the Android market for apps with the kinds of features mentioned here in this article. The really good ones, may come at a small cost.
Do you have any suggestions for websites or apps that you use to help you focus through the use of sounds, noise and music? Feel free to share with your fellow readers in the comments – we’d love to hear about them too!
Image Credit: Focused girl with headphones via Shutterstock