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Background Noise

by Meghann on January 24, 2012

Move it along. Move it along. Nothing new to see here.

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Yep, nothing new to see here. Today’s lunch was 75% repurposed leftovers. I love meals where all I do is pop open the containers, mix it all on the stove top, and serve.

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Today’s mix featured a flashback to Sunday night’s bbq tofu, last night’s potatoes and lima beans, fresh green beans, and mushrooms served on a bed of spinach.

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The best part was that the tofu still had a good amount of bbq sauce on it that rubbed off on everything else and made any sort of additional sauce of dressing complete unnecessary. :)

Background Noise

When I first met Caitlin in 2008, and she told me she worked from home, I had this image in the back of my mind of her working at her desk with the television always on in the background. An image, i later discovered, that was totally wrong. She didn’t (and still doesn’t) watch tv while working. This wasn’t a concept that made much sense to me (I loved having the tv on at all times!) until I started working from home myself last January.

At first I would keep the tv on for ‘background noise,’ but then I discovered how much it distracted me. I couldn’t concentrate on the task at hand with the tv on and stuff that should have taken me 10 minutes, started to drag out for over an hour. Not good and not very time efficient.

I started working with the tv off and saw a huge jump in my productivity. I’ve also discovered I struggle with listening to music while I work, apparently I’m distracted very easily. However, people talking at a coffee shop? Oddly soothing. I think it reminds me of working in an office, where people are constantly having conversations each other.

Are you a fan of ‘background noise’ while working? Or are you more of the dead silent type?

{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat January 24, 2012 at 1:55 pm

I pretty much always do work with music on, but TV – never! Something about music only helps me to focus, but TV is just way too distracting.
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2 Steph @ A Life without Ice Cream January 24, 2012 at 2:00 pm

I find it depends on what I’m working on. If I find something very challenging I like quiet or really soft music. If I’m more comfortable with my task I like music at an avg volume.

The chatter around me however (even in my office) makes it hard to concentrate (much like the TV in the background) so I will often listen to headphones just loud enough to drown everyone out.

It’s great for getting the be-jesus scared out of you at your desk too! :P

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3 Sarah January 24, 2012 at 2:01 pm

I used to think I would have the TV on all day if I was home too. I’ve been a stay at home mom for 3 years now and I only watch the news in the morning and then turn off the TV. I do much better without any noise…no music here either.
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4 Anne @strawberryjampackedlife January 24, 2012 at 2:02 pm

I think it’s in grad school when everyone starts to use their iPod. Sometimes I can’t concentrate without my tunes blasting in my ears. It helps me focus.

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5 Michelle @ A Healthy Mrs January 24, 2012 at 2:02 pm

I definitely like a bit of noise — sometimes I find turning on the tv or music in another room, rather than in the same room I’m working in, is a less distracting, but still provides a bit of white noise. When it’s too quiet, all I can think about is how quiet it is! :)
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6 Jana @ Newly Wife Healthy Life January 24, 2012 at 2:03 pm

In college I almost always studied with the tv on. I got good grades, but my time definitely could have been used more efficiently. I would study for say 3 hours and soaked in as much information during that time as I would have in one hour if the tv was off! I love having the radio on while I work though too. I am a pretty good mulitasker and enjoy the ‘background noise’ so if it takes me a little longer, it is okay with me.. :-)

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7 Emily January 24, 2012 at 2:03 pm

I absolutly cannot be productive with the TV on! Even if I turn it on to clean the house or whatever, I find myself standing in the middle of the room, dusting cloth in hand, staring at the tube not realizing 45 minutes have just gone by.

I can do music depending on the project. As long as it doesn’t require intense concentration music seems to help my productivity. But it must be music I like, otherwise it’s distracting (Bruno Mars AGAIN?!? Sorry, Bruno fans.)
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8 Angela @ Happy Fit Mama January 24, 2012 at 2:12 pm

I enjoy the silence now. On most days I don’t even play music. I think it has something to do with having kids. When they are up, the house is loud. When it’s nap time, I like quiet. I don’t even need my ipod to run with anymore.
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9 Jessica @ Sushi and Sit-Ups January 24, 2012 at 2:14 pm

When I was in college, I could study with the TV on, in a room of people, etc. Now my mind wanders with every noise! I need complete silence to study or I can get away with headphones and really low classical music just to cancel out any conversations around me.
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10 Jillian @ Sprinkle Massacre January 24, 2012 at 2:17 pm

I can’t even be near my phone or computer or I won’t get any work done (if it’s work not involving a computer). On the other hand, if I have to work on the computer, I have to slap my wrist every time I click on google reader, twitter, or facebook. Ha!
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11 Michelle January 24, 2012 at 2:19 pm

I like background noise in the form of Pandora’s “Twilight Score” station. Something about pretty, wordless music helps me focus.

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12 Shanna @Stilettos and Running Shoes January 24, 2012 at 2:26 pm

I work from home at least once a week and always find the time spent working in a coffee shop to be my most productive! I think it has something to do with how I always wrote my papers in a coffee shop in college… just the right level of noise & movement to keep me awake, but not too much to distract me.

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13 Lindsey January 24, 2012 at 2:26 pm

When I am home alone I need music or the TV on at all times. If not I get creeped out by every little noise. But if I worked from home I could see both being distracting! Not sure what I’d do then.
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14 erica January 24, 2012 at 2:30 pm

i need silence…or else i’ll get distracted. the tv, i’ll start watching. music, i’ll want to sing along. starbucks? i’ll get sucked in to listening to the next table’s conversation–it’s a problem, i can’t help it!
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15 Colleen January 24, 2012 at 2:30 pm

I need some sort of background noise. I don’t actually ‘listen’ to it but I must have it while working. However, I can’t have my email or other computer programs open or I find myself clicking and checking every chance I get.

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16 Cait's Plate January 24, 2012 at 2:33 pm

I think it totally depends on my mood. Sometimes I need complete silence, other times I can pop in a DVD of a TV show I’ve seen a million times and be good to go!
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17 MrsSwan January 24, 2012 at 2:39 pm

interesting post

At times when at work listening to music is great. Others time I HATE it as it just distracts me. TV background depends on what it is I am doing to be honest. Usually it is better if it is a show I have seen before so I am not tempted to watch it as much.
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18 Hillary January 24, 2012 at 2:41 pm

I wrote my best papers in college at the local (super busy) coffee shop—the ambient noise of conversation and coffee machines was, as you mentioned, oddly soothing. When I work or study at home now, having the TV is too distracting, but so is silence. A friend at work suggested the Baroque music station on Pandora—beautiful music, no lyrics to distract me—it’s perfect!
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19 Britt @ runwithbritt January 24, 2012 at 2:47 pm

I love studying at coffee shops. The noise makes me focus and I get so much done. I can’t get anything done with the tv on, so during the semester I don’t turn it on. If I ever have ye urge to watch a show I just play it on my laptop.

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20 Poptartyogini January 24, 2012 at 2:52 pm

I’m right there with you. In school I’d tape a sign on my tv that said ‘shouldn’t you be studying?’. But the Starbucks in Barnes and Noble was perfect. Even during final exams if find the shuffling of paper soothing.
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21 christine @ BookishlyB January 24, 2012 at 2:55 pm

I generally need silence (and that goes for the TV in the bedroom too, a constant battle). Interestingly, if it’s something I have no interest in, like one of my husband’s videogames or artsy movies, I’m fine.
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22 Annette @ EnjoyYourHealthyLife January 24, 2012 at 2:56 pm

It drives me crazy when ANY music or TV stuff is on. I will never understand why people have the TV on all.day.long. I need peace and quiet!!

I love me some leftovers :) Yumm
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23 Amanda January 24, 2012 at 2:58 pm

I agree with the coffee shops reminding you of office noise, I find I can work great at Starbucks. Definitely adding the Twilight Score to my Pandora channels for the no lyrics. Usually I have the Coldplay, John Mayer or Adele stations on at work for some mellow music.

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24 Katie @ Peace Love & Oats January 24, 2012 at 3:00 pm

I like having the TV (or netflix in my case) on when I’m doing things around my apartment, but when I’m actually focusing on school work then I need either silence, or something like a coffee shop!
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25 Megan January 24, 2012 at 3:15 pm

I work in an asset management office and everyone has TVs in their offices so they can check out the markets, but I do marketing, nothing relating to the markets, so my bosses don’t mind if I watch whatever. At first I found it sooo distracting, but I’ve adjusted to the background noise, sometimes I just prefer to leave it off, but in general it’s on something random.
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26 Erin January 24, 2012 at 3:24 pm

I need silence to concentrate but sometimes turn on music when I’m cleaning the house or making dinner. I never use the tv as “background” noise, though. If the tv is on it’s because I’m watching it. In fact, it irritates me when I go to people’s houses and they leave the tv on but aren’t in the room or aren’t even watching it!
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27 Rachel January 24, 2012 at 3:35 pm

My boss doesn’t allow us to listen to music at all and it drives me crazy. Sitting alone in silence makes my mind wander all over the place and it is harder to focus. I’d be a lot more productive if I could have music on, honestly!
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28 Jordan@almondjay January 24, 2012 at 3:36 pm

I cannot work with music playing because I tend to sing along and not do my work. But when I’m home alone I like to have the TV on low for some background noise.
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29 Gina @ Running to the Kitchen January 24, 2012 at 3:41 pm

I work from home and have never turned the tv on during the work day. I can’t do anything with background noise. Even music. This was a serious problem in college as you might imagine.
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30 Lisa (bakebikeblog) January 24, 2012 at 3:42 pm

I love to have music in the background!!!

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31 Kathy January 24, 2012 at 3:46 pm

When I am working…really serious working I can only listen to elevator music kind of noise or it has to be silent.

I get too annoyed with any DJ talk, commercials etc…and if its a good song with lyrics then I start to sing along and day dream. (which equals no work ;-)
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32 Lindsay @ Running the Windy City January 24, 2012 at 3:53 pm

I used to be a big fan of background noise i.e. the t.v., I couldn’t be productive without it! But I’m increasingly finding myself preferring quiet or music (love Pandora) when I do work at home.
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33 Laura January 24, 2012 at 4:06 pm

If the noise is conversations, then I can’t get anything done. I focus on the words I’m hearing and get distracted. Of course this is great when I work in an office where some of my coworkers spend all day on the phone. *need a new job need a new job*

White noise is fine though.
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34 Talia @ Bite Size Wellness.com January 24, 2012 at 4:18 pm

I am so torn! Often no noise can be just as distracting as a lot of noise. I even sleep with a fan on (winter weather or not) just so that it is not dead silent. I think the trick is to put music on or a TV show on that you don’t listen to/follow. You don’t want to sing along to the words and are less likely to lose focus.
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35 Heather Blackmon @ Better With Veggies January 24, 2012 at 4:30 pm

I love background noise, but I’m also easily distracted. I’ve been listening to “Yoga Radio” while I write or work a lot recently, just the right amount of noise with no words to focus on.
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36 Meg at runridelove.com January 24, 2012 at 4:32 pm

I have to have background noise, and it is almost always music. I prefer something I know really well, so that it just blends into the background. I wrote almost all of my thesis from home this summer and fall, and I listen to Taylor Swift on repeat so many times! Or Barenaked Ladies pandora. Even if I’m working in a coffee shop, if I don’t bring my headphones I can’t get any work done.
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37 Kateness January 24, 2012 at 4:41 pm

You were curious about the coffee shop. This is the one I go to – there are some pictures of the inside.

This article in The Atlantic talks about the traditions of going to coffeeshops to write (even Hemingway did). Specifically, “Being out in the world during the middle of the workday almost feels like getting away with something, even for people who actually waste a lot more time in office settings reading ESPN.com, gossiping with colleagues, or taking long lunches. (Perhaps the feeling of getting away with something is what encourages them to work without further indulgence.)”

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38 Kateness January 24, 2012 at 4:42 pm
39 Olivia January 24, 2012 at 4:53 pm

I value TV far too much to do homework during it – I gotta respect the show! I can rarely ever do anything else while I watch TV (except for working out at the gym, obvs).
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40 Jessamyn January 24, 2012 at 5:41 pm

This makes me laugh because i’m more or less the opposite–i can’t handle hearing people’s conversations. i get totally sucked in to the petty gossip of the coffee shops near the university campus where i live, and music is often what i put on to drown out those conversations. i can’t do television, but the right music is better for me than conversation. a perfect working environment for me would involve other people, all also working in complete silence, but that is hard thing to come by. something about being watched keeps me moving, and the silence keeps me focused.

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41 Melissa @TryingtoHeal January 24, 2012 at 7:04 pm

I listen to piano music on pandora; it’s perfect for when I’m writing! I used to use it all the time in collegge too when I was studying.
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42 Kristin @ FoodFash January 24, 2012 at 7:23 pm

I’ve been working at home a lot over the past few years and I never have the TV on. Sometimes I’ll listen to music, but most of the time just silence. I should head out to the coffee shop more often, but staying in my pj’s all day is a ton more appealing!!
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43 Dana @ the Big Fat Skinny January 24, 2012 at 7:46 pm

I’m definintely easily distracted and need silence. Not sure about the coffee shop thing — I might like listening to other people’s conersations too interesting to get my work done ;)
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44 Caroline January 24, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Unless it’s something that’s completely new to me, I tend to work best with the TV on. In fact, I wrote about 90-95% of my thesis with the TV on, and studied for my licensing exam with background TV noise on. I get too distracted when it’s quiet. But I also have come to realize that not many people are able to concentrate with that much noise.
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45 Kathleen @ Fittitudefreedom January 24, 2012 at 8:52 pm

The older I get the less I can work with background noise which I used to love.
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46 Army Amy* January 24, 2012 at 8:59 pm

Has it been a year since you left your job? I’d love to read a follow-up post to self-employment. How has reality stacked up to what you thought (or feared) when you took the leap?*
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47 BroccoliHut January 24, 2012 at 9:04 pm

I used to be a “pro background noise” person…until I went to college. My roommates were definitely NOT fans of background noise, so I learned to live without it. Now I find that the TV actually IS a bit distracting.
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48 The Many Thoughts of a Reader January 24, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Must Have Noise. I can ignore the heck out of it, but if it is dead silent I daydream.
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49 Emily January 25, 2012 at 8:22 am

I think that for me it varies. When it is super quiet in my office, sometimes I find that strangely distracting, just like I would background noise!
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