Alex Marshall

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Using ambient sounds to improve my focus

03.01.2024

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Personal

I often struggle with focussing at the right time. I can sit for ages staring at the task in hand, but all I can think about is some other task. Or I can slowly work on something throughout the day with broken periods of attention, and then suddenly become laser-focussed at 5:30pm, just as I should be winding down.

I’m fortunate to have flexible working conditions that allow me to work around this but from time-to-time I do get stretches where I struggle to focus on anything for several days. It’s in these periods that I’ll look for tips, tricks and hacks to improve my focus.

I recently re-discovered the app Portal, coincidentally right after they launched their big 1.20 update. Portal takes over the audio and video of your MacBook to immerse you in peaceful and awe-inspiring places; volcanoes to meadows, shorelines to rainforests. When you enter a Portal, your wallpaper is replaced by a high-quality video stream of a particular location, and the sounds of chirping birds, rustling leaves or low rumbles of thunder from that scene are played through your speakers. It can even connect to smart lighting devices to further immerse you in the location, but don’t yet have the right lights to try this

I’m not sure what it is about these low-volume background sounds that get my brain out of a funk, but whenever they start playing I feel an almost instant reset. And pairing them with lo-fi beats on Apple Music really helps to set a much more focussed and productive scene.

Here’s some of the playlists and artists I rotate between

One other bonus app that I use to help with focus is HazeOver. It’s a little app that lives in the menu bar on your Mac. When active, it dims the brightness of all of your open windows, except the one that’s currently active. Very handy if, like me, you’ve got a big monitor with apps and windows open all over the place

This isn’t a perfect solution by any means; I still get moments where I can’t seem to focus on one thing at a time, but it has so far been a pretty effective kick-start for focussed sessions

Thanks for reading!

Alex :)

I often struggle with focussing at the right time. I can sit for ages staring at the task in hand, but all I can think about is some other task. Or I can slowly work on something throughout the day with broken periods of attention, and then suddenly become laser-focussed at 5:30pm, just as I should be winding down.

I’m fortunate to have flexible working conditions that allow me to work around this but from time-to-time I do get stretches where I struggle to focus on anything for several days. It’s in these periods that I’ll look for tips, tricks and hacks to improve my focus.

I recently re-discovered the app Portal, coincidentally right after they launched their big 1.20 update. Portal takes over the audio and video of your MacBook to immerse you in peaceful and awe-inspiring places; volcanoes to meadows, shorelines to rainforests. When you enter a Portal, your wallpaper is replaced by a high-quality video stream of a particular location, and the sounds of chirping birds, rustling leaves or low rumbles of thunder from that scene are played through your speakers. It can even connect to smart lighting devices to further immerse you in the location, but don’t yet have the right lights to try this

I’m not sure what it is about these low-volume background sounds that get my brain out of a funk, but whenever they start playing I feel an almost instant reset. And pairing them with lo-fi beats on Apple Music really helps to set a much more focussed and productive scene.

Here’s some of the playlists and artists I rotate between

One other bonus app that I use to help with focus is HazeOver. It’s a little app that lives in the menu bar on your Mac. When active, it dims the brightness of all of your open windows, except the one that’s currently active. Very handy if, like me, you’ve got a big monitor with apps and windows open all over the place

This isn’t a perfect solution by any means; I still get moments where I can’t seem to focus on one thing at a time, but it has so far been a pretty effective kick-start for focussed sessions

Thanks for reading!

Alex :)

I often struggle with focussing at the right time. I can sit for ages staring at the task in hand, but all I can think about is some other task. Or I can slowly work on something throughout the day with broken periods of attention, and then suddenly become laser-focussed at 5:30pm, just as I should be winding down.

I’m fortunate to have flexible working conditions that allow me to work around this but from time-to-time I do get stretches where I struggle to focus on anything for several days. It’s in these periods that I’ll look for tips, tricks and hacks to improve my focus.

I recently re-discovered the app Portal, coincidentally right after they launched their big 1.20 update. Portal takes over the audio and video of your MacBook to immerse you in peaceful and awe-inspiring places; volcanoes to meadows, shorelines to rainforests. When you enter a Portal, your wallpaper is replaced by a high-quality video stream of a particular location, and the sounds of chirping birds, rustling leaves or low rumbles of thunder from that scene are played through your speakers. It can even connect to smart lighting devices to further immerse you in the location, but don’t yet have the right lights to try this

I’m not sure what it is about these low-volume background sounds that get my brain out of a funk, but whenever they start playing I feel an almost instant reset. And pairing them with lo-fi beats on Apple Music really helps to set a much more focussed and productive scene.

Here’s some of the playlists and artists I rotate between

One other bonus app that I use to help with focus is HazeOver. It’s a little app that lives in the menu bar on your Mac. When active, it dims the brightness of all of your open windows, except the one that’s currently active. Very handy if, like me, you’ve got a big monitor with apps and windows open all over the place

This isn’t a perfect solution by any means; I still get moments where I can’t seem to focus on one thing at a time, but it has so far been a pretty effective kick-start for focussed sessions

Thanks for reading!

Alex :)

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