When a friend of my brought [email protected] to my attention, I was skeptical. After all, how could music, or even certain background noises enhance your productivity? But, being the open-minded person that I am, and considering I’m always interested in increasing my productivity, I figured I’d give it a try.
The Core Concept of [email protected]
[email protected] offers various kinds of music (in the broadest sense of the word) that you can play in the background while you work. Obviously, this is not random music. If that were the case, we could simply use Spotify or even the radio. No, there’s a whole science behind the kind of music offered.
The core idea is that your brain tends to seek distraction if it’s too boring. That’s why focusing on one thing is so hard for many of us. That’s where an auditory stimulus comes in, to occupy our brain just enough so we can work without getting distracted. To do that, what we listen to can’t be too boring (we’ll fall asleep, or still seek distraction), but also not too stimulating (it would be a distraction in itself). It has to be exactly right to stimulate what’s called beta and theta waves. Here’s what their website says:
Increases in beta waves have been tied to sustained focus and attentional control, and biofeedback technology that specifically increases beta waves has been successfully used to treat attention disorders. Theta waves, in some situations, are also related to task focus . We have found that when [email protected] audio tracks are played during reading, both beta and theta activity are increased, relative to plain music, in areas of the brain related to task focus and preparedness.
In short: the music from [email protected] is designed to help you create that elusive state of flow. The site claims to boost your productivity as much as four times.
Does it Work?
All of this sounds pretty intriguing. I’m inclined to believe that it could work, considering what I’ve read about how our brains function. The research quoted on the site isn’t overwhelmingly convincing, but it does make sense.
In order to test it, I gave the two weeks free trial a test-drive, to see if it had a positive influence. I’m a writer so I sit behind my desk most of the day, which is an invitation to get distracted.
I tried multiple ‘channels’ on [email protected], including Einstein’s Genius, Focus Spa, Alpha Chill, Ambient, Acoustic, and Classical Piano. Some of these are known music pieces, but most are composed for this company specifically. If you don’t like a track (and this happened to me a few times) you can skip it and the program won’t ever play it again for you, apparently. I liked Alpha Chill the best, followed by Focus Spa. The channels with only piano (classical piano and acoustic for example) started to irritate me quickly, and some of the others kept pulling me out of my concentration.
While using Alpha Chill and Focus Spa, I was able to work for an hour at a time, mostly concentrated. My ‘flow state’ varied from 20 to 50 minutes, but I rarely made a full hour. That in itself is not surprising since an hour is fairly long to work on something concentrated. Most of the time, the music played in the background, never making it to my conscious, but every now and then a new song would play that yanked me out of my focus zone. I’d skip it and get back to work, but that was disruptive.
My Mistake with Testing
Before I draw any conclusions, I have to make a confession. I made a classic mistake when testing [email protected] When you test a new process, you can’t change anything else but that one element. Otherwise, you won’t know for sure what worked since you changed multiple aspects. Well, you guessed it, I changed two things. At the same time as starting with [email protected], I made myself set a timer and work for an hour straight without any distractions. Plus, I recently started meditating every day, which has also improved my focus in general.
I have worked more focused the last two weeks, but the question is what caused it. It could have been the music, but it could also have been my timer-decision, and/or the mediation. To narrow it down, I did work for two days using only the timer, not the music. I did not experience less focus than when using the music. On the contrary, it was easier because I wasn’t getting distracted by songs that irritated me. To be fair, this is part of the learning process in starting with a program like this, and eliminating songs and experimenting which channels work best may take (way) longer than two weeks.
I’d be tempted to try [email protected] longer, if not for the fact that it costs $9.95 per month. To me, that’s a pretty steep price considering the limited channels available. It may be enough, but I can see myself getting bored fast with only two solid channels that work for me.
Also, as much as I’m convinced of the general science behind listening to certain types of music when you work, I don’t believe these are the only types that will work. My guess is that experimenting a little yourself may save you a lot of money, especially if it turns out you do like classical pieces. They’re easily available for free, or for way lower prices, and with many more choices. [email protected] is self still conducting trials to see what works best, so I’m curious to see what those results will look like.
There’s also a mobile app, but the Mac OS version is buggy, according to the reviews. Many people report crashes to the point where they had to reinstall. Also, if you do want to try it, be aware that the first two weeks are free, but you need to register with card details right away. If you forget to cancel, you’re down $9.95.