Focus@Will is a web site that plays music designed to increase the amount of time you can stay focused. I started using the site a few years ago, after seeing two of the site’s founders, Will Henshall and Dr. Evian Gordon, give a presentation about the site at one of the Wisdom 2.0 conferences.
I always liked to listen to music while working, but found that it did not always help me concentrate. In his presentation, Dr. Gordon explained that music including, or having similar characteristics to, the human voice (such as electric guitars or violins) tends to be distracting because our attention is drawn to such sounds. He also explained that people with different personality types tend to find different types of music better at helping them focus. For example, according to Dr. Gordon, high-energy music tends to be better for helping high-energy people focus, while low-energy music tends to be better for helping low-energy people focus. (Of course I am simplifying his research and findings – more details here.)
The team at Focus@Will conducted additional scientific research to identify properties of music that enhance focus, and those that distract us. Based on this research they developed customized musical tracks that are available for playback through the Focus@Will site or app. Examples of these tracks are “Classical,” “Up Tempo,” Acoustical,” Water,” and “Baroque Piano.”
I first tried using Focus@Will shortly after seeing the company’s Wisdom 2.0 presentation and quickly settled on the “Water” track as the best for me. I found it very helpful and have used it regularly ever since. My experience has been that listening to the music while working helps me be more mindful and enhances my ability to focus for longer periods of time. I also find the water sounds soothing, so my stress level stays low as well.
The site’s user interface is clean and simple. Once you log in, you choose the track you want to listen to, the “Music Energy Level” (low, medium or high), and the amount of time you want the music to play. I find the timer feature to be quite helpful; if I only have 30 minutes to work on a task, I set the timer for 30 minutes and the end of the music signals my time is up.
The site also includes a “productivity tracker” feature which asks you how productive you were after the end of each session. You tell the site how productive you were (e.g., 25%, 50%, 75%, or 100%), and can later view a graph of your productivity over time.
The site offers a free trial with limited features. A paid subscription is required for the full set of features, including access to all available music tracks. Apps for iPhone and Android are available as well.
Overall, I’d recommend this mindful technology.
Do you use any websites or apps to stay focused and practice mindfulness? Tell us all about them in the comments section.