Five ways to stay focused, even in loud spaces

    Five ways to stay focused, even in loud spaces

    You're not alone if you can't concentrate in loud environments. One study revealed that 99% of employees reported that their focus was affected by va...

    You’re not alone if you can’t concentrate in loud environments. One study revealed that 99% of employees reported that their focus was affected by various noises at their workplace. But you can only sometimes secure yourself a quiet space. So, being able to concentrate in loud cafes, airport lobbies, or office spaces deserves some recognition.

    Let’s explore why sudden or loud sounds can make you feel uneasy and what to do to maintain focus in the busiest places. 

    Why is it hard to concentrate in noisy places?

    The reason why it can be hard to concentrate in loud spaces is related to our evolutionary survival mechanism. Our ancestors had to be alert to potential dangers and respond quickly to protect themselves.

    While we may not face the same physical dangers as our ancestors, this mechanism still operates and can be triggered by background noise. This can cause us to become less focused, making it difficult to concentrate in loud spaces.

    As people of the XXI century, we can tolerate a pool of loud sounds for quite a long time—30 minutes or a few hours in a shopping mall or airport doesn’t sound like a nightmare. But for some, this is an unbearable challenge. People with hyperacusis, a condition characterized by a reduced tolerance for sound, may find it especially difficult to concentrate in loud spaces—because even everyday sounds can become uncomfortable or painful to hear.

    So, there are a bunch of reasons why it can be hard to concentrate in loud spaces:

    1. Distraction. Loud and distracting sounds can pull your attention away from tasks and interfere with your ability to focus on work.
    2. Fight-or-flight response. Our brain is wired to be alert to potential dangers, so even low-level background noise can trigger our fight-or-flight response and reduce our concentration on current mental activity.
    3. Fatigue. Constant stimulation from loud noises can be fatiguing, making it difficult to sustain attention over time.
    4. Sensitivity. Some people may be more sensitive to noise and find it more distracting than others, making it even more challenging to concentrate in loud environments.

    Five great strategies to focus on, even when it’s loud

    While not having a quiet workplace can be challenging, it’s not a catastrophe. You can still be productive and focused in a loud environment if you have the proper techniques and tools. Let’s talk about the most simple and affordable approaches that are incredibly effective and easy to follow. 

    Noise-canceling tools

    If you plan to spend some time in a noisy space, consider various forms of sound protection.

    Noise-canceling headphones can help block out external sounds and allow you to concentrate better—you can listen to music or calming ambient sounds.

    Also, try using noise-canceling technology, such as apps or software that generate white noise to help you concentrate. For instance, you can try A Soft Murmur — a service that lets you customize the white noise and listen to the sounds that calm you and help you concentrate.

    Five ways to stay focused, even in loud spaces

    If you work in an office space (or a home office), you can use soundproof curtains, rugs, or wall panels. These can help absorb and reduce noise from the outside, creating a quieter and more peaceful environment. Also, consider using earplugs or foam earbuds (these can be customized), which help mask external sounds and are a great option if you need to work in a noisy environment and can’t control the amount of noise that’s present. 

    The key to creating a noise-canceling space is identifying what works best for you and your specific needs. Experiment with different strategies and find what helps you focus and reduce stress in a noisy environment.

    Practice mindfulness meditation

    Mindfulness meditation can help train your brain to focus and stay present in the moment—no matter how noisy your environment may be. You can practice mindfulness meditation through apps or develop your own program tailored to your needs.

    Conscious breathing can add a lot to your concentration. Taking deep breaths and focusing on breathing can help calm your mind and reduce stress (there can be a lot of it in loud places). Deep breathing exercises can help you stay focused and productive, even in distracting environments.

    Visualization techniques also help with creating a mental environment that is calm and free of distractions. You can imagine yourself in a peaceful place, such as a beach or a forest, and focus on the sights, sounds, and sensations of that environment. You can also imagine outside sounds or your thoughts as light clouds—and see them moving along.

    Use focus aids

    Fidget toys and stress balls can be great focus aids by providing a physical outlet for your nervous energy, allowing you to stay focused and avoid distractions. Keeping your hands occupied can reduce stress and increase your alertness, helping you stay focused and on track.

    Another focus aid that can be helpful is aromatherapy. Aromatherapy involves using essential oils to create a calming and relaxing environment in spaces that you can arrange and customize. Some popular essential oils for focus and concentration include peppermint, lemon, and rosemary. You can use an essential oil diffuser, add a few drops of oil to a handkerchief, or smell the oil directly from the bottle to experience its benefits.

    Having an ergonomically-wise workspace might also work. If you can arrange it properly and improve the space from a structural point of view, we recommend doing so — a cluttered work area can be distracting and increase stress. It’s also important to note that a well-lit work environment can help focus. Bright or natural light can help improve your energy, while dim or artificial light might make you feel drowsy and reduce your focus, which is already affected by loud sounds.

    Add some gamification

    If you can’t avoid distractions, befriend them. When using your imagination, you can immerse yourself in a different world and mitigate the distractions around you. Make up the most unbelievable and fun scenarios to add some fun to the settings. Here’s how you can use your imagination to stay focused on work:

    1. A pirate navigating a stormy sea. Focus on the task, and visualize yourself successfully navigating the ship through rough waters. Imagine the wild waves, the sound of the wind, and the rain. Try your best to guide the ship safely through the stormy waters to a distant treasure island.
    2. A detective at a busy train station. Imagine the hustle and bustle of people, the sounds of trains coming and going, and the general noise and chaos. You are a detective tasked with solving a mystery and finding the criminal. Your goal is to find important information to help you solve the case. Use your skills and ignore any distractions that may arise and disrupt your focus.
    3. A XIX century miner looking for gold. Immerse yourself into this scenario. Hear the sound of water, and feel the dirt and rocks beneath your feet. You are focused on finding gold, knowing that every moment counts. The loud sounds and distractions around you don’t discourage you because if you miss this chance, you will lose the opportunity to become rich. You imagine the reward at the end of your journey and the excitement of discovering a precious nugget.

    Take breaks

    The worst thing about noise is that it might last forever. But it doesn’t mean you have to be in it forever. If you can’t transform the background sound, try stepping out of it from time to time. Schedule breaks into your workday so that you can stick to them.

    1. Take breaks frequently. Schedule breaks during your workday. Regular, short breaks are more effective than infrequent, long ones. Take a break every hour or hour and a half. But the breaks should be short—no more than 10-15 minutes each. This helps you maintain focus and avoid procrastination.
    2. Rehydrate. Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially during your breaks from stressful conditions. Staying hydrated can help improve focus and prevent extra fatigue.
    3. Disconnect. During your breaks, try to disconnect from work completely by turning off your phone or email notifications—use this time to refresh. Napping can be a great way to recharge and refocus during the day as well— if you have a designated break area, you can try taking a 30-minute power nap (this duration is the best).
    4. Get up and move. Take a walk, stretch, or do some light exercise to help boost energy and refresh the mind. To make your time even more interesting, start practicing yoga or eat a snack that is high in protein and fiber, such as nuts or fruit. Switching from one kind of loud sound to another might be helpful—if possible, try singing as a way to improve your mood and energy level.

    Create motivational graphics to stay focused on your goals

    Motivation is an essential element of staying focused, even in the least comfortable places. Pack inspiring reminders to keep this fire burning—make them audible and visual too. 

    Building a quiet space where you can work comfortably can be very helpful in increasing your productivity and reducing distractions. When you have a dedicated space for work, it helps you mentally shift into “work mode” and can create a sense of routine and structure in your day.

    Once you have your space, you can decorate it in a way that makes you feel comfortable and relaxed. This could include adding plants, hanging up photos or art that inspire you, or creating a vision board with images that represent your goals and aspirations.

    You can also create printable materials to stick around your walls. For example, you might print out motivational quotes in posters, stickers, checklists, or reminders of your long-term goals. By surrounding yourself with these reminders, you can stay focused and motivated throughout the day. If you want some inspiration, take a look at these VistaCreate poster templates.

    Five ways to stay focused, even in loud spaces

    While these strategies may not directly address the issue of noise and distractions, they can help keep you motivated. This, in turn, makes it easier to stay focused when your colleagues are talking or when you have to work from a local cafe.

    Anna Goroshko

    Author of articles on design, marketing and communications. I love when it's beautiful. I love it when it's interesting. I love when it's helpful.

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