Do you find yourself plagued with noisy distractions no matter where you’re working? Most freelancers, whether they work at home, at a coffee shop, or even in an office, often have to deal with a number of external stimuli.
Many workers turn on the radio or a Spotify playlist. But for most, music can actually be more of a hindrance to productivity than an aid—especially music with lyrics or a particular amount of funk.
There’s good news, though, for those with a penchant for distraction. Here are five websites and apps that will help you stay locked in.
Interestingly, Coffitivity doesn’t give you total silence. The site recreates the ambient noise you might hear in a coffee shop—low chatter, the occasional chair squeak, a spare cough—to make you more comfortable. The free version provides three different settings: Morning Murmur, Lunchtime Lounge, and University Undertones. And each has its own distinctive sounds and quirks that conjure a specific atmosphere.
The founders of Coffitivity based their service on a University of Chicago study on ambient noise and creativity: “We document that ambient noise, an incidental environmental cue, is an important antecedent of creative cognition.”
You Are Listening To
Eric Eggberhardt created “You Are Listening To Los Angeles,” a web app that provides a multimedia experience of a specific places using atmospheric music, police scanner feeds, and video loops.
The project started with Los Angeles, but now provides a number of other cities, airports, and notable places. Users can even create their own pages.
It’s the sort of app that isn’t great for every working environment, since police scanners can be a bit distracting for some people (unless you’re working on a true crime story). But I find that putting myself in specific place is really uncanny—using the Los Angeles page truly brings me back to a city I used to live in. The background video of LA traffic and the soothing background music is calming and hypnotizing, but it gets me into the zone for work.
All in all, it’s great for background noise, but it’s even better as a tool for writing about or researching specific locations.
There are a ton of background noise generator apps out there, but after some intensive exploration, I’ve found what may be the best of them all: Noisli.
Many existing services give you a couple tracks to choose from or allow you to mix-and-match with one or two sounds. And some of these apps cost quite a bit of money. Noisli is an exception, as it provides an extremely simple service for the reasonable price of $1.99. It has a number of options users can play simultaneously with an adjustable volume slider.
The app comes with usual ambient sounds like rain and wind as well as a few more unique options like a rolling train and a spinning fan. Noisli’s arsenal also includes white, black, and pink noise generators, and users who don’t know where to start can select from a few preset sound settings.
Brian Eno’s “Ambient 1/Music for Airports”
For those still new to the ambient music genre, look into Brian Eno. Eno is considered by many to be the father of the genre, having even coined the term “ambient music.”
I’m inspired pretty much every time I read an interview with Eno, and it’s no different when listening to his music. Quartz recommends his album “Music for Airports” because of its “steady, phased repetition” that isn’t extremely complex, making it ideal for boosting cognitive skills and focus.
Apps like Coffitivity and Noisli are simple options that cover basic ambient sounds for the typical user. But for those looking for a more complex and personal noise generator, MyNoise is probably the next step up.
Available for free online, MyNoise not only allows for a ton of customization, but also learns about its users and adapts the settings to fit each individual.
You can take a simple calibration test to get a “personal curve” that the program saves and uses every time you visit the site. After trying out some of the different setups, my personal favorites are Code Breaker (digital sounds and soothing background music) and Dungeon RPG (an imitation of the background music and sound effects in video games).
There’s a time for Taylor Swift, and that time is not when you’re getting work done. Considering listening to music while you work can actually make you less productive, ambient noise is a good alternative more freelancers should look into. The next time you need to zone out, see if one of these tools can help defend against disturbances.