Losing focus at work can be as easy as breathing. Between social media alerts, calls and texts from friends and family, noisy co-workers, office gossip, and other common distractions, it’s not surprising that 98% of the workforce report being interrupted at least three to four times per day. In fact, according to a University of California study, workers spend an average of just 12 minutes on a task before being interrupted.
Of course, these interruptions aren’t always caused by outside distractions. Oftentimes, we’re distracted by our own thoughts. Other times, we’re simply too tired to fully focus or function at an optimal level.
Either way, figuring out a way to avoid losing focus is a crucial aspect to increasing personal productivity—be it at your day job, on your side-hustle, or with anything else—especially considering how it usually takes more than 25 minutes to return to a task after being interrupted. Fortunately, there’s a simple way to avoid losing focus at work and to re-engage if you do.
Grab your earplugs—silence can help you think better
It’s not uncommon to listen to music or a podcast to avoid losing focus byway of unwanted distractions. It’s not necessarily wrong either. Depending on the person and the situation, music can boost workplace productivity just as it could potentially hamper it. Nonetheless, research reveals silence may be the key to greater focus and better executive functioning.
Referencing a study led by Imke Kirste, a former professor at Duke University Medical School, a recent Time article explains that “‘trying to hear in silence’ can demonstrably accelerate the growth of valuable brain cells.” In the study, Kriste and her team found silence to yield the highest number of newly grown and sustained neurons, as the act of trying to hear in silence activates the auditory cortex. So, for those endeavoring to stay focused, silence can be quite useful since the “act of listening to quiet can, in itself, enrich our capacity to think and perceive.”
Creating a quiet environment can also lead to other health benefits. On the mental side, beyond stimulating brain growth, silence may help calm racing thoughts while simultaneously improving concentration and focus. It can even stimulate creativity. And on the physical side, silence can help lower blood pressure, improve insomnia, and reduce cortisol (a stress hormone).
If you’re someone who works well with music playing in your ears, don’t let this stop you. Keep doing what works for you. But if there’s ever a time where you find yourself losing focus, consider finding a private room, putting in earplugs, pulling on noise-cancelling headphones, or doing something else to establish a quiet environment. Instead of listening to music, try listening to silence.