Now, we all love our colleagues – true, some are more loveable than others, but still. However, sometimes they can be very noisy. Especially when you need to focus.  For example, when you are in the middle of some important breakthrough, or trying to decipher a cryptic, but important paper.

If you work in a big group, concentrating can be extra difficult, and frustrating. So, I am sorry to say: all of that frustration you are feeling towards your colleagues, I am sure they already felt it for you, in one way or another. It is the simple math of working closely with many people, with different working paces, schedules and personalities.

Some people have this amazing innate capacity to tune everything out and stay alone with their thoughts, even in a room full of loud people. Others may need a few tricks!

So, here they are:

Noise-Cancelling Ear-Plugs

If you really need to focus, why not consider a noise-cancelling ear-plug? That way you are still in the room with your colleagues, in case you need their help, or they need yours. You are not alienating yourself – but you are finding a way to be more productive!

And speaking of productivity…

Music Can Boost Productivity

Listening to music on your headphones is always a good option. Did you know that scientific studies have confirmed that certain music can actually help you concentrate? Some people prefer music without lyrics, as to not get distracted; other people opt for music they love, to help improve their mood. Some people go for Classic music, like Beethoven; others go for classics, like “Take on me” by A-Ha. Try, and see what kind of music helps you focus.

If you feel that music of any kind is too distracting, try some white noise, or some nature sounds – they can help you relax and abstract from the noise around you.

Just a tip: if you put your music too loud it can bother your colleagues, and you become the source of distraction.

Go for a Walk to Regain Focus

Study the noise pattern of your colleagues. Maybe they are louder in the morning, or just after lunch. Try to take those moments to relax. Try a quick trip to the bar to get some coffee, or a quick visit to the WC. Just to help you take your mind out of the noise. Perhaps when you get back the excitement has calmed down – or you will be more relaxed, and you won’t even notice the noise all that much.

By the way…

Try to Relax

It is hard to relax – especially when you are feeling overwhelmed by your work. It might be the weight of your PhD, of your experiment, or just the everyday stress. Feeling overwhelmed might make you more sensitive to noise and entropy around you. Take two or three deep breaths. Do some chair exercises to stretch and relax. Perhaps meditate for a few minutes – if you don’t know how, I truly recommend you learn it – it is easy, and great to take your busy mind and relax it a bit.

If Nothing Works…

Well, if you have tried everything, and nothing seems to work, you have two options. You either try to find a recluse room where you can hide to work, risking being alienated from your group, or you can talk to them. Try and reason with them, make them see your point of view.

I can guarantee they will still be loud, but maybe they will try to be louder in shorter periods of time, leaving you with more time to really focus.

And, you can even indulge for a few minutes and be loud with them. Chat, talk and share stories. Don’t underestimate the Eureka effect! You might find the solution for your problems, if you just take your mind off of it for a few minutes!