I almost always do my best work from home. I like to think in my own space where I can control the temperature, the environment, and most of all, the noise level. I generally work in total silence. If there is music or conversation going on around me when I work, my attention tends to redirect from the task at hand to whatever the distracting sound is. This obviously limits my productivity and is one of the biggest reasons why I like to do most of my work in my bedroom rather than out in public.
But lately, I’ve been diversifying my work environment. I’ve spent a ton of time in the library over the past couple of weeks. I’ve found myself reading at my church and at coffee shops instead of in the solitude of my bedroom. These places are noisy. The library is full of students, there’s a preschool of screaming children at my church, and Starbucks is probably one of the loudest places one can go due to its popularity. I thought the noise would limit my ability to work, but it actually did just the opposite. Being around other people and hearing them talk, move around, and go about their days actually helped me concentrate on what I was doing. And when I tried to work from home again, I missed the noise. Somehow, I found the noise not only helpful, but comforting.
I generally tend to live a noiseless life. I’m not talking about literal volume so much as the seemingly unnecessary things in life that tend to distract us more than to enhance our productivity. My life is usually a never-ending to-do list, and I am constantly going through the process of trimming out things that keep me from getting that list done in the quickest way possible. I’m not particularly social. I don’t go out a lot because I try to focus on work. And I’ve given up certain TV shows not because I didn’t enjoy them but simply because they were taking up too much of my time. I have a habit of trimming unnecessary time commitments (aka “noise”) out of my life. It’s just something that I’ve been taught to do.
But recently, I’ve been re-thinking my stance towards noise. What if noise isn’t so much an unnecessary distraction as a necessary release? What if we all need a little bit of inefficiency, of impracitcality, in our lives? What if the noise is what grounds us and keeps us connected to the world when we’re tempted to get so wrapped up in ourselves that we can’t even recognize that there’s something outside of us anymore?
I understand that not all noise is good. We are bombarded in our culture by so many voices that can harm us. I do believe that we should filter out and avoid that kind of noise to the best of our abilities. But not all voices are harmful. And not all noise is bad. We just have to learn to distinguish the bad from the good.
There’s a reason I miss the noise when it’s gone. Because the noise is real. The noise is grounding. And the truth is that I need the noise from time to time, no matter how hard I try to keep it out. So I’m going to embrace the noise, not avoid it. I can’t let the noise keep me from accomplishing my goals and requirements, but that doesn’t mean I have to cut the noise out altogether. Noise in and of itself isn’t bad. So embrace the noise, and see what it can do for you.