Do Distractions Help You Work Better?

Do Distractions Help You Work Better?
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Although it may seem contradictory, many people claim distractions help them work better. Ambient cafe noise benefits productivity, so why not other potential sources of distraction?

Photo by zhu difeng (Shutterstock)

Developer and technical manager Brandon Aaskov finds that watching movies actually helps him get things done:

I have long since been a proponent of watching movies while working. Now, not everyone understands or agrees with this approach. In fact, many will criticise it, as my bosses have throughout the years. I strongly believe that we’re of a different generation, where our ADD needs to be occupied and fuelled for productive output. I don’t always watch movies while working — writing emails while a movie is playing is hard for me, not because of the movie, but because of the audio. I can’t listen to music and craft an email at the same time either.

When I need to get tedious work done that doesn’t require a lot of thought, I’ll throw on an episode of a TV show I don’t care about too much. Often times I can handle both tasks at once, but if I can’t I get frustrated with the TV, pause it, and find myself intensely focused on the task because I’ve essentially tricked myself into it. When I’m at low moments of productivity, trying to work with the TV on either provides entertainment while I handle a menial task or makes me want to focus my productive energy.

What about you? What distractions help you get things done?

Movies While Working [Brandon Aaskov]


  • I completely agree with this, but I think its more about that working in absolute silence is, itself, distracting due to lack of sensory input. It takes an extremely strong will to NOT let ones mind wander in absolute silence.

    When it comes to visual media however I personally only find it effective if its something i’ve already seen once or twice. If it’s brand new, and it’s and good.. Yeah.. There goes productivity.

    • I think you’re spot on there, complete silence just screams to be filled. I’ve found though that I can’t have anything playing with understandable words or I’ll find myself listening to it rather than working. This goes for movies, music, colleagues having a discussion etc. I’ve found classical music to be about the only thing that works for me, enough background noise to distract me from the silence but not so much that I lose myself in it.

      • This kind of seems begging for a new class of troll.. The Beethoven troll..

        “What do you MEAN you can’t lose yourself in such rich musical overtures?!”

  • I agree if it’s a TV show with random talking and not a lot of loud actions or negative drama. My inability to do anything else with music playing in the background, but being more productive on many tasks with a bit of MEANINGLESS talking in the background, is a bit of a running joke. (Where “MEANINGLESS” is defined as stuff not within my work world — when I hear THAT kind of talking, I naturally focus to try and hear if there’s something I care about being discussed.)

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