For a long time, I lost the “value of quiet”. With access to billions of hours of audio in our pockets, it’s so easy to constantly to consume. For me, I always listened to the familiar: songs I’ve loved since high school. They never change, are nostalgia inducing, and help me get through monotonous tasks that sometimes come with lab work. Unfortunately, it became obvious that filling my time with songs I had memorized years ago lead to no time for thinking, so I moved on to listening to podcasts and audiobooks.
I’m the worst offender of all as hardly a day passes when I have not had earbuds in for at least an hour or two. This is mostly acceptable in the biology research labs I’ve worked in over the last decade or so, but I’d suspect it is not as common place outside of academia. I’m a media junkie and I know it, listening to the same music I’ve listened to a thousand times or one of my favorite podcasts while performing an experiment.
The good: I was constantly learning new things and different ideas.
The bad: I had no great way of memorizing all of it.
The ugly: While listening to audiobooks and podcasts all day, I hardly had time to form my own ideas and opinions.
If you’ve run into this issue too, try giving yourself a break. I turn off the podcasts and music outside of the car for a week and found it helped my concentration and memory. Of course, I’d like to go scientific in my assessment so maybe this will become an experiment for a few willing volunteers. After doing my usual morning pre-planning, the rest of the day was often amazingly productive. I am surprised that freeing myself from the distractions which I thought were improving my efficiency and multitasking made such a distinct difference by the end of the week. Additionally, I synthesized my own thoughts and criticisms without the constant flood of others’ words.
While I haven’t given up listening to podcasts and music completely during the day, when there are particularly important or complicated tasks at hand, I have no problem putting away my iPhone. Have you encountered any problems like this or have any suggestions?