At any one time, the brain is processing so many things: your senses, imagination, and emotions are all jostling for priority in your mind’s eye. You may notice this competition when you feel unfocused or frazzled or overwhelmed. Particularly after lunch, at the end of the work day, this kind of brain noise can result in slower thinking, sluggish feelings, and an altogether less productive day. Focus comes from being able to shut out all those competing voices, to attend precisely to a single important task, so if you’re looking for an immediate productivity hack try ear plugs.
Quick, summary: why ear plugs?
By dampening noise, you’re able to focus exclusively on what’s in front of you.
Particularly in the era of open plan offices, co-working spaces, cafes, and -- let’s face it -- working from home, we’re expected to be just as productive in spaces that are far louder and more disruptive than the private office of our parents’ generation. By using a nice pair of ear plugs, you immediately cut out all extraneous distractions, these allow you to zero your focus into your laptop or screen. There’s a reason people close their eyes to meditate, by removing one sense the body adjusts and emphasises others. By removing our hearing, we become far more visually aware, which makes us more attentive to the material in front of us.
Not distracting like music.
A lot of people swear by their Spotify playlists for work, but studies suggest that music actually lowers one’s capacity for focus and actually reduces memory and recall. People choose music for its capacity to drown out distractions, but ironically it becomes its own form of disruption -- a well fitted pair of ear plugs is going to provide all the benefits without impeding your memory.
Like a second coffee, without the jitters.
We’ve talked earlier about After Lunch Syndrome, that brain fog that accompanies the late afternoon period before the end of the day. Rather than having another coffee (and dealing with the loss of sleep that causes, see our sleep guide here) save your ear plugs for after lunch and let them help create a second wind of focus that allows you to finish off those last annoying tasks. As we’ve discussed above: routine creates mindset, the ear plugs will become associated with a jolt of energy and productivity, creating a positive self-reinforcing cycle that allows you to remain more effective for longer.
Routine aids the creation of a focus mindset.
Any kind of routine drums into the mind a certain emotion and focus is no different. By creating an atmosphere where you use ear plugs in a productive setting, your brain will begin to create connections between the simple ritual of inserting ear plugs and productivity or focus. It’s a bit like the chicken and the egg, but these kinds of self-enforcing routines always pay dividends after a few weeks.
Which do I try?
At Earjobs, our philosophy is to trial ear plugs first. Starting with a cheap, simple, but effective solution allows you to work out your ear shape, how loud your environment is, and also how comfortable you find ear plugs. In this guide, we’re going to recommend a pair of multi-purpose silicone plugs and then a more productivity focussed metal set for those really loud situations.
Starting Ear Plugs for Productivity?
Earjobs Silicone Putty Ear Plugs. A silicone ear plug is a jack of all trades, it’s maximally comfortable and flexible, with a strong capacity for sound dampening (a lot of people use these to sleep!) Because of how silicone is moulded, it’ll fit all ear types, making it an excellent starting point for productivity hacking. They’re rated around 22 SNR, which means you’re going to dampen about 22 decibels of noise. The added benefit of silicone is its versatility: you can use these to sleep, to swim, or for any other use where ear plugs are appropriate.
Looking for an upgrade?
A major advantage of a reusable plug is that it’s designed with filters. Rather than foam or silicone, which is going to just dampen everything, filters work by gently lowering the volume of your surroundings. For example: a musician’s ear plug still lets them hear what they’re playing, just at a lower volume. This kind of feature is particularly important when you’re using ear plugs to heighten productivity at work. Acoustic filters will let you still hear your co-workers and still remain aware of your surroundings, while working to maximise your productivity by dampening and reducing the insistence of disruptive noise. The Vibes High Fidelity plugs are a great solution here: light and comfortable, they’re typically used in a concert setting but have found substantial popularity as a plug designed to lower the volume of the external world. They’re almost invisible when worn, great for inconspicuous day wear, and block an average amount of 22dB across all frequencies — making these excellent for fostering a quieter and more productive work context.
If you’re finding yourself struggling with a chronic case of afternoon snooze, try ear plugs. They’re a proven study and meditation resource, with additional power in making you more focussed and productive at work.