A few years ago, distraction-free writing was all the rage: distraction-free apps, websites, tips and tricks. I even got into the game with classic Mac and Newton hardware.
Lately, I’m coming to realize that my brain needs a bit of distraction to get something done.
Right now, I’m typing out this blog post at the University of Michigan’s Duderstadt Center, a hub of activity for arts and engineering students. It’s constant traffic, constant noise, constant conversations. There’s great natural light, plenty of little work spaces, and a lovely view of the changing autumn colors outside. Plus wifi.
For me, it’s perfect.
I’ve learned that my brain needs a steady buzz of activity, whether that’s noise or music, to work productively. As long as something’s going on in the background, my busy brain can churn away on that while the creative side of me gets work done. It feels like it goes against all of those distraction-free tips, but for me, it works.
Since coming to the university, I’ve made it a point to get out of my office and explore some busy working stations – like the Duderstadt Center. Our student unions are great, because I can plug in headphones, hop on the wifi, and get to work. Every once in a while, I’ll pop up my head to see what’s going on, and then dive back in.
It’s why sites like Coffitivity are great for me. Noise is good, especially the background, like the buzzing hum that a coffee shop or a student union provides. Music is key, too. I feel like I don’t get anything productive done without some sort of music (jazz, zydeco, heavy metal – almost doesn’t matter). While editing photos, music is especially important. Working on post production while listening to an entire album is creative time well spent.
Environmental distractions are better than work distractions. Constant phone calls and emails bug me, but an espresso machine doesn’t. Background music is great, but someone playing the piano in the same room is a nuisance (as I just learned trying to get work done in the student lounge).
I’m not sure what to call this pro-distraction working philosophy, although research has shown that for some people it is a help. I guess I’m one of those people.