I’m a firm believer that a good set of headphones can be one of the greatest boosts to your productivity you can buy. If you work in an office environment, you are always surrounded by distractions. There’s always someone nearby discussing the latest gossip, a new project coming along, or that great TV show from last night. Sure, your computer probably has speakers, but I’m sure that you are a considerate person who wouldn’t add yet another distraction to the workplace. That’s where the headphones come in. Put on the heaphones, turn on some music, and let the rest of the world fade away. Ahhh, sweet focus.
You have a few options for headphones, but you don’t need to be picky. Most people I know are very happy to use the earbuds that came with their media player of choice (especially their phone). This will do, but I prefer to have more traditional headphones. Over the ear headphones often come in designs that surround the ear and block out some noise. I prefer this to sticking something in my ear, but I have uses for both kinds. When working and writing, I have used a pair of Monoprice DJ style headphones that are fantastic. They will only set you back around $25, sound fantastic, and are rather portable. Of course, you can also spend more for higher quality noise-canceling headphones, in which case you don’t even have to listen to anything (just let the noise-canceling technology provide the peace and quiet). I recently received a pair of Bose noise-canceling headphones as a gift. They are great now that I fly more often, but they are more than is necessary it the office.
Larger headphones have an additional side-effect on your work environment. Often, when others see people typing away with headphones on, they receive a very clear message to leave you alone. Those cans on your head send a signal that you are busy. Earbuds can do the same, but I usually don’t notice those until I’ve already attempted to gain someone’s attention. I end up apologizing a lot to people with earbuds. Additionally, some people now have a habit of conversing with earbuds in. Not everyone reacts the same way to headphones in the office, but you should be aware of these possible reactions.
If you have a space to yourself, such as an office, then this is up to you. After I moved into an office, I found that it was hard to “get in the zone” the same way that headphones allowed me to. That said, if you have a good setup and it works for you, got for it. On some days, I prefer speakers so that people who visit my office might catch a bit of what I’m listening to. I don’t really have a need for them to know what I like, but it does provide a personal bit of knowledge about me that helps build a relationship.
The next time you have a big project coming up, try to cut out distractions by using headphones. This could be very common in your workplace, in which you have no reason to hesitate if you could use the focus. If this is uncommon, or even “frowned upon”, I would suggest finding time to try this out anyway. If your boss or coworkers object, try to explain that you are trying to gain better focus. If nothing else, it will allow you to explain how dedicated you are to getting quality work accomplished, and that you are taking the initiative to deal with distraction.