Saturday, July 6, 2013

The sound of caffeine

If, like me, you work at home a lot, you may be well acquainted with the urge to take your files or laptop to a café, because for some reason or other you can work better when there’s a bit of hustle and bustle going on. I always used to think I was just habituated to noise after spending a lifetime in noisy offices. But a new study says there's truth to the theory that a little buzz is an aid to creative work.
It seems that moderate noise, at about 70 decibels, enhances creativity. Note that word 'moderate' - if the hubbub is too loud then it's too distracting. But it's dead silence that can be the real killer of creativity. Now there's a solution, of sorts. If the silence in your home office is driving you mad you can go to a site called and press play to download a stream of muffled background chatter that's pretty similar to the noise that goes on in your favourite café.
Does it work? Well, I spent a curious few minutes there and the site’s had millions of page views. My experience was a bit mangled by slow connectivity; every now and again the flow of chatter went silent as my laptop went into buffering mode. And that was really distracting.
Also, what the sound track does not deliver is the spitting hiss of espresso machines, the constant banging noises from baristas dumping used coffee grounds, gales of giggles from teenage girls or the wails of crying babies. The sound track sounds like it's recorded in a very polite cafe where nobody raises a voice or lets out a guffaw. But then it’s projecting an ideal world, not real life.
Note that this theory only works for creative brainstorming. If you’re doing your taxes or studying calculus, and it’s focus that you need, then silence is still golden.

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