Everyone has their tricks and triggers when it comes to getting their work done with the most efficiency. Some people need absolute quiet to read, study, or create. Some prefer a lot of noise that just turns into white noise which gets them to focus in on what needs to be done. For some people, it’s all about location. A coffee shop, a park, their living room, the den, the office, whatever it is, it’s the place where work gets done.
For me, in my current location, it’s my bedroom. But really, it’s anyplace where my equipment is setup, and where there’s a TV. I can’t work in the quiet. As an audio/musical person, quiet places just make my ears search for any noise it can find. A ticking watch, the movement of my clothes, the faintest distant footsteps, all pull me away from the work and the creation that I’m trying to initiate. Now it’s different it’s a professionally-quieted room, because if I’m in there, I’m definitely recording, but it’s the reason why I never liked studying in libraries. I’ve tried to do it a lot of times while I was in school, but I would much rather work where there’s at least a little bit of noise and not a requirement of silence. I love libraries, but I don’t work at my best when I’m there.
The TV requirement of my ideal workspace is actually the background noise that keeps me focussed. It’s a strange quirk to my creation process, but I actually find that all my best work has happened while a TV was on. (Except for recording, because, again, that professionally-quieted room is a must-have for recording, and something I wish I could have access to at all times.) If there isn’t a Leafs or Jays game on, or if there isn’t some sort of syndicated repeat of a show that I like, I’ll usually have a movie playing, most likely one that I’ve seen multiple times before. (For one summer, I had The Matrix on repeat in my room, whether I was working or sleeping. I had that script memorized, word for word, that year.) I suppose it creates a white noise of sorts for me to actively block out so that it makes me focus on what I’m doing. But what’s intriguing about it (and what I find most entertaining) is that in times when I’m stuck on an idea, or I feel like I’m not progressing as I’d like, I’ll fall into the action of the movie, and my mind will wander into the script. I’ll usually be reciting dialogue along with the movie and then suddenly I know what I need to do to keep going with my work. I suppose it’s similar to latent learning, where if you can’t remember something you were just about to say or think, not trying to think about it and thinking about something else will often allow your brain to work on the previous problem in the background and it’ll suddenly come back to you later. Keeping a distraction on that I can easily block out allows me to have that same out when I need it, and because I’m not leaving my work to ponder in silence, it gets my brain away from the problem at hand quicker, thus allowing it to process in the background.
It’s not the soundest of science, I know, but it’s just something that I know that works. So if you ever see me plunking away at my keyboards near my desk while the game is on the TV, I’m not slacking off. I’m hard at work.
Now if only I had a setup like this: