A Tool to Help You Focus

Be Here Now. Squirrel!

I can’t claim I’m 100% focused or productive all the time, but most people I know would say I’m pretty on target. But sometimes the plethora of attention stimuli in our world can overload my senses, which creates stress; I want to mitigate this “noise” as much as possible and get “back” to the task at hand: doing the dishes, organizing, and cleaning; working, coding,  and staying in the moment.

I’ve read several books on productivity and focus notably David Allen’s, “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity“, which I found to be more stressful and overwhelming for me, and Leo Babtua’s book, The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential…in Business and in Life,”which was definitely a better system for me. The thing I missed from these books were tools to help me focus whether they are physical, mental, or electronic.

In 2017 I stumbled across a fantastic web and mobile app called “Focus at Will.” I’m pretty skeptical.   There’s nothing worse than trying a flash in the pan “solution” only to find out it doesn’t deliver. I do believe and appreciate science data-backed solutions because it helps me trust the service. For you fellow geeks, nerds, researchers, and the curious, you can read the Cornell University research white paper,The Influence of Music on Cognition and Mood,” by Dr. Julia Mossbridge. 

Get Focused at Work

In 2017 I started using Focus at Will at work with the expectation to use this service every day for two months, and if it didn’t work out, I could simply cancel it. I work in cloud engineering with light development work and am learning to code in Python programming. Concentration and focus is critical to output high quality work with less mistakes and reviewing. Using Focus at Will has been a game changer for me.

I’m one of those people that doesn’t want to check Google Music for new EDM music regularly, invest the time, and find music that doesn’t deliver. So I’m losing time. It’s one more thing to do and interrupts your workflow. When that happens, it’s easy to get distracted, get up, and overhear a co-worker conversation about a Reddit post and get pulled into that in no time flat. This happened to me and co-workers several times the years working in IT. If you say Reddit, it’s like a “lemur effect,” and IT people suddenly pop up from their desks intrigued. I want to check and talk about Reddit when I’m taking a break or afterwork over a beer.

I like Focus at Will better than white, brown, and pink noise for focusing. For a few years I used simplynoise.com when needed, which is awesome for blocking out sound, but I found my brain getting tired hearing that constant, “sssshhhhhh” sound in my ear most of the day, plus it just felt weird and not very normal. I would go back to my trusted “focusing” non-lyrical music after that.

Focus at Will Is Consistent

I wanted focused music that delivers every time I use it, so I can get things done. If you work in an “open space” office environment, you know how distracting it can be even if you’re using headphones, earbuds, and white noise machines if present. Focus at Will is awesome because you’re using scientifically engineered focus background music to stimulate your brain and mask the outside noise you don’t want to hear. There are different channels for you to choose from, since we’re all unique. For instance, my favorite station is “Uptempo.” The music is electronic dance music with no lyrics aka edm. You can set the energy level from low energy, medium energy, and high energy.

You can even track how productive you were during a music playing session. This helped me learn which stations I liked the most, but of course some of the stations you will flat say, “Nope,” and move on to the next. It’s nice to have channel options, and the company continues to create new ones investing in their service. I found I was much more focused at work with this music because it helped stimulate my mind, focus my attention more easily, and helped me get into that flow state, where I’m completely engaged in my work and getting higher quality work done.

That’s why Focus at Will has me as a subscriber. It’s $10 a month. If you’re serious about productivity and focusing, $10 is a small drop in the bucket. I think of it like, well it’s $5 per pay check; hell, I can buy a good craft beer for $5 at any bar in Austin for that money, so it’s really not bad on the budget. I think it has the potential to “be the Netflix” of focusing music as they expand their channel offerings.

Plan and Be Prepared

One suggestion is to find a good pair of earbuds or headphones. This is one of those topics with huge variance in personal preference. Everyone is different in terms of their budget, their use case, and using passive or active noise canceling earbuds or headphones. At the gym a simple pair of bluetooth earbuds with passive noise canceling is all I need. I use Senso’s earbuds.

But at work, this is a different story. I’ve been testing active and passive noise headphones and earbuds since 2013. I learned I really want the best in active and passive noise cancelling to minimize as much background sound and noise as possible. Having the best sound quality like an audiophile isn’t a hard requirement for me. I tried different brands and models which were lesser priced, but they didn’t deliver like the Bose QuietComfort’s did. Keep in mind the human voice is the most difficult noise to cancel out, so don’t expect people to sound completely muted. I use the “Bose QuietComfort” with active noise cancellation. I found my return on investment was better by spending more money up front for the active noise canceling quality, the reliability, and the customer service then using less effective cheaper models. I completely understand if those headphones are out of budget because I had to save up for them myself. If they are out of budget, check out the technology reviewer website thewirecutter.com. It’s a fantastic resource to offer you options at different price points. The writers go into great detail as to how many models they’ve reviewed, time spent, and how they formed their conclusions. Most importantly, find a model that works for you and your budget.

Get and Stay Focused at Home

I use Focus at Will at home too. I don’t know about you, but I hate doing in-house home chores like the dishes, vacuuming, whatever. It’s just boring. I learned I needed to make it more engaging. I use the Focus at Will Uptempo channel for low interest activities like chores because the music gets and keeps me going until the task is complete. The music also seems to improve my mood albeit slightly because I think it’s just having that energizing music in your ear, which feels good when you’re getting things done. Sometimes I find myself bobbing my head in different directions to the music because the beat is catchy. It’s like when you’re with your friends and you hear a song that’s got a good beat, and one of your friends starts dancing whatever, just kinda makes you move.

Make the Most of your Smart Home for Productivity

I have a fledgling smart-home setup with Google Home. I use my phone with the Google Home app to cast Focus at Will to my Home Group, which consists of a Google Home Max speaker and 4 Google Home Mini speakers throught out my home. I love this feature. It’s like “casting and forgetting.”

If you’re interested in learning more, click on this Focus at Will referral link to get $20 bucks, which will give me $20 bucks in return. You can also test it out for free for 14 days, which is what I did.

If you’ve struggled with focusing and productivity, have been looking for a tool to help, then I think you’ll really enjoy this service.

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