Four Letter Nerd

Tag - headphones

Cubicle Survival: the Neverending Battle for Productivity

If you are anything like me you spend your days toiling away in the lifeless, beige walls of your cubicle. Unfortunately, cubicles can have so many distractions that your productivity gets crushed harder than the bathroom tiles in the Fantastic Four bathroom.

"What are you trying to say?"

“What are you trying to say?”

The reason for the mass production destruction is the archenemy of introverts and high-achievers alike – other people.

Luckily there are some things you can do to regain your productive strength. Like Superman rising above the clouds and soaking in the rays of the sun, you can rise above distraction and get some work done (on a lot less epic scale).

Now, some of you don’t work in cubicle world so not everything in this article will apply, but there are still general productivity tips in the expanse below to help you be awesome.

One of the biggest complaints from employees in these open working environments is the staggering amount of noise. Ringing phones, email notifications, text notifications, loud chewers, and constant bullshitters are all commonplace and it can be excruciating trying to get anything done in this environment (trust me, it’s brutal).

If you are like me you probably aren’t just going to tell everyone to shut up. First of all even if the constant bullshitters and loud chewers that still leaves everything else, and everything else still sucks quite a bit. Second of all the constant bullshitters are probably vindictive and will continue to be annoying, but now it will be on purpose instead of just because of their amazing personality.

The most obvious counter-tactic to the cacophony of office noise is a good set of headphones, preferably noise-reduction headphones (you  can check out Robbie’s favorite headphones here). “But how would replacing one collection of noises for a slightly more harmonious collection help you (assuming you aren’t listening to Dubstep)?” Well, one study suggests that one reason we get so fed up with the random noises surrounding our cubicle is because they are entirely out of our control, and therefore more stressful than the noise that we choose to listen too.  I also read that it is better for your focus if you listen to music you aren’t familiar with.  I have been trying this out using I Heart Radio for the last few weeks, and I would recommend it.  It actually does help quite a bit as long as you don’t spend time skipping songs (that’s a focus killer too).

The level of focus listening to music allows depends on what kind of music you are listening to and when you choose to listen. It is thought that while you are to learn new information you should probably turn your Zune off (I am kidding of course, no one uses a Zune anymore). However, when you are doing a familiar task go ahead and drown out all that peripheral noise by cranking up the jams. There was a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showing that a group of surgeons worked more accurately and were more relaxed when listening to music they liked.

"No one likes the Zune anymore... except ME!?"

“No one likes the Zune anymore… except ME!?”

But seriously, don’t sing or hum along with your iPod. Not only does it inherently decrease your focus by increasing your mental workload, but it will also make everyone around you hate you (I am speaking from experience, I will hate you).

Another way to increase your focus at work is to implement a standing desk. Standing desks have been around for a while. Thomas Jefferson, Ernest Hemingway, and Winston Churchill were all proponents of standing while working. Standing desks not only counteract the negative impact sitting all day has on your health, they also have the ability to increase your focus on the task at hand. Another added bonus is that you can be the equivalent of an office hipster by being the first person in your office to give it a go (unless you work at a hip office already, in which case what are you waiting for).

Julia Gifford of the Draugiem Group studied the impact standing while working had on their productivity. Her group came to the conclusion that standing can lead to up to 10% more productivity. One of the biggest takeaways from standing while working is increased focus. While standing you gain a heightened sense of urgency, which causes you to be focused on completing the task at hand. However, for tasks requiring creative thinking they found it was better to sit down and allow your mind to wonder without paying attention to your physical state.

I used a jerry-rigged standing desk at work for a while. In order to get a standing desk put into my cubicle I would have to have a doctors note and a specific reason for needing one, so I bought some plastic shelving from Wal-Mart, cut it down to size and placed my monitors on the shelf above my desk. When I had to look over paperwork I would sit down, and when I would work on the computer I would be required to stand. An added bonus was that I would not spend as much time surfing the interwebs because everyone around me could see my screens so it kind of forces your hand in becoming more focused in that area too.

These two physical tricks will help you block out the jibber-jabber and focus in on the task at hand. Sometime later we will look at certain apps that will also help with productivity, but these two things in particular have really helped me step up my work level at work and get shit done at work.

If you have any tips and tricks that help your you stay focused at work leave them in the comments below!

The Best Headphones That I Have Ever Owned

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To say that I am the worst person in the world with taking care of headphones would be an understatement. I am terrible with them. I mean TERRIBLE. I’ve been using headphones ever since getting a walkman cd player in middle school, and I would not be shocked to say that I have probably been through close to 100 pairs in my 23 years of life. I’ve had every possible style over the years. Ever since high school though, I have been using earbuds. After shorting out another pair (a decent pair of Skullcandy earbuds costing around $40) a few weeks ago, I decided it was time to change up what I use. So I was in the market for a pair of over the ear headphones with a removable aux cord. After scavenging Amazon and eBay for a few hours one day, I found my saving grace: the August EP650 Headphones.

Not only do the EP650’s have a removable aux cord, but they also have Bluetooth wireless. The big selling point on these headphones are the specifications and the price point. While shopping around, I had a budget of around $50 to spend. I knew going in, that I wouldn’t be getting a pair of overpriced Beats By Dre (though, they do sound good.) I expected to get something good at a decent price, but not an amazing pair for an amazing price. The August EP650 headphones have nearly identical specs to Beats By Dre (plus Bluetooth) for $55.

After reading reviews, comparing specifications and everything else possible, I placed my order. I even got excited enough to get 2 day shipping (I was desperate to stop using my backup headphones.) So I waited 2 days and it they were finally delivered. I unboxed them like a kid on Christmas, gazing at the quality of the product. I was shocked at how well made these headphones are. Size wise, these are the perfect fit. The ear cushions are so comfortable, to the point that you almost forget that you’re even wearing headphones. Of course, they do have an adjustable headband (with even more cushioning!) so you can fit them to any head size. They’re built very solid, not flimsy at all but weigh just the right amount.

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The battery life on the EP650’s are fantastic. If I were to guess, I would say they get around 12 hours for every charge. I literally listen to them all day at work and every night when I go to sleep. I maybe have to recharge them every other day. The good thing though, is that you can charge them through an included mini usb cable and still listen to them. Or you can plug in the aux cord and use them as normal headphones, no power needed. On the side of the right earphone, there is a small control panel that allows you to adjust volume, change tracks as well as play/pause whatever you’re listening to. As far as range goes, it is listed as 10 meters. I can generally walk into another room before I start losing any signal.

All those features are great and all, but the sound is what really matters and what really blows me away about these headphones. Like I said earlier, the EP650’s have almost identical sound to Beats By Dre. Whenever you buy lower end headphones, the bass tends to lack. Not with these headphones though. The frequency range is from 40hz (lows) to 20,000hz (highs), creating a really dynamic range so that you hear an insane amount of detail in music, but especially movies. The sound can get extremely loud and starts to sound pretty gainy if you turn it up too high, but I have mine set to around 1/4th of the way and it’s more than enough.

I really don’t know what else I can say about these headphones. I have never backed a product like I do with the August EP650 Headphones. If you’re in the market in headphones (or will be soon), just go on and buy these. I can pretty much promise you won’t find a better deal on headphones anywhere. Pick them up on Amazon for $55 now!