If there's one area that binaural beats really come into their own it's increasing focus and improving work productivity.
If, like me, you work at home, getting settled and being productive can be a challenge.
And if you work on a computer in an office, you'll know just how difficult it can be to block out all distractions and get into the “Zen Zone”.
The great thing about binaural beats is they can help you access that ‘flow state' people rave about. I'm referring to that state of mind where your fingers are literally dancing across the keyboard and you're getting things done at a phenomenal rate.
When we access this state it's like we can get 4 hours work done in an hour. It's that super-productive state that you look back on in the evening and feel pumped that you got so much done – vs. feeling like it was another wasted day…
So whether it's an essay you need to get finished, a challenging work project that requires your maximum focus, studying for a course or exam, or even finishing a painting or blog post, you can use binaural beats as a focus and productivity aid.
How Binaural Beats Help You Focus
Let me run through a quick overview of how this works, without getting too technical.
Okay, so it is generally accepted that there are 5 major brain states, and while it is somewhat simplified, let's categorize them like this:
- Delta: Sleep, pain relief, access to sub-conscious mind
- Theta: Deep relaxation, meditation, creativity, healing
- Alpha: Flow state, positive thinking, concentration, focus
- Beta: high energy, high-level learning, memory enhancement
- Gamma: Very high energy, memory recall, peak awareness
So here's the thing: If you're tired and feeling a tad lethargic, then your brainwave makeup is probably being dominated by Theta waves.
Conversely, if you're distracted and your brain is moving at 100 kph, then you're probably firing a lot of high-end Beta and Gamma waves.
Again, I'm generalizing a fair bit here for the sake of a quick explanation.
Neither of these states of mind is ideal for high-level concentration.
When we want to be fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity, we need to move into the Alpha state and produce more Alpha brainwaves.
Binaural beats can help us do that because they induce a process called ‘frequency following response'. This is when the brain is triggered to follow along at a particular frequency.
The Frequency Response Process
Okay, so here's how this process works.
You put on a pair of headphones and press play.
- The left headphone sends a frequency to the left ear. Let's say 210 Hz.
- The right ear sends a frequency to the right ear. Let's say 220 Hz
- The brain then calculates the mathematical difference between the two frequencies, which is 10 Hz (Alpha), and follows along at that frequency.
You see, the brain technically produces a third frequency, which is a convergence of the two frequencies it received from the left and right ears.
The Alpha state runs between 8-12 Hz. So any frequency within this range is an Alpha frequency.
Tracks I Use for Focus
So it's Alpha tracks you should be listening to for concentrating while typing, writing, studying, painting, doing woodwork, whatever activity it is that requires you to block out the world and engage your brain for optimal potential.
I really like using the 3 tracks below:
- Zen Focus (perfect for working)
- Flow State (Great for facing difficult challenges)
- Deep Concentration (Good for centering an overactive mind)
How I Listen…
Because I work on the computer a fair bit, I download the tracks to my computer, drop them into iTunes and plug my headphones into my computer.
I then have the option of transferring them over to my iPod (yes, I still have one), or my phone if need be.
I tend to listen to 30 minutes or 1-hour at a time, then take a break, grab a drink and then do another hour if I need to. After an hour I'm usually fully entrained into the zone and so immersed in what I am doing I can keep going without the music.
I use either my Beyerdynamics DT 770 Pro or my iPod headphones. The Beyer are closed-back and really insulated, so if I listen for more than an hour I'll switch to the lighter weight earbuds.
On a side note though, closed-back headphones definitely enhance the process and promote an isolated feeling of being closed off from external distraction.
With this type of headphone the sound is unable to leak in from your immediate environment. The music also sounds warmer an gives you an in-head sound experience.
How Long Does it Take to Work
If it's your first time listening, then you'll feel the effects pretty quickly – though results will differ from person to person. Certainly by the 15-minute mark you should be immersed and flying along with your work.
Note that the minimum suggested listening time is 15 minutes. If you need to break and grab a drink or go to the bathroom, just press pause and come back to the session.
It's worth having a few different tracks to choose from because after a week or so I'm sure you'll fancy listening to something new.
You might also want to take a break after 2 or 3 weeks of daily use, as your brain can start to get used to the effects.
I also recommend doing things that are conducive to enhancing your focus and concentration. For example, you might do the following:
- Put your phone on silent.
- Close Facebook in your web browser.
- Eliminate external noise: close the window, turn off the radio, etc., though headphones will stop most of this noise pollution.
- Let others know not to disturb you.
The reason I say this is that you don't want to pull your mind in two different directions. For example: if the binaural beats are taking your brain into the Alpha state, yet you keep checking your phone or intermittently reading Facebook posts, you are stimulating your mind and causing confusion as to the state of mind you want to be in.
I have an FAQ that covers a lot more information on getting the most out of your binaural beats listening experience. You can read that here.
Other than that there's nothing to it. Simply slip on your headphones and press play. It's that easy.