Working Habits: Background Noise

We all have those little habits that make our work life more enjoyable.  One of my more noticeable work habits is the background noise I set.  It’s almost always the same.

To be honest, for the past few months it’s been Pride and Prejudice.  Whenever I have work to do in the evenings (usually sewing, but other times design work), I’m often into the first fifteen minutes of the BBC mini-series before I realize that I’ve set it to play in the background.  It is as if I am on autopilot… I take out the DVD, start my computer, and press “play all episodes” before I know what I’m doing.

Despite the extreme repetitiveness of this habit (as I work I often hear myself saying lines along with the actors), I have discovered that there is a very useful purpose: I have become so accustomed to the length of this miniseries–300 minutes, or 5 hours–that I have learned to pace my work by its rhythm.  At first, I played this miniseries when I had a late-night deadline to meet; I had something engaging to listen to while I pushed through a difficult night of work.  Now, though, as I hear the plot move in the background, I know how much longer I have to work before I must call it quits for the night.  When I hear Mr. Collins describe the splendors of Rosings Park when Elizabeth comes to visit, I know that I have quite a long time yet to go; when I hear news of Lydia’s discrace and elopement with Mr. Wickham, I know I have to start wrapping up larger projects (for smaller projects, I know that Lady Catherine’s visit to Longbourn marks my last good wrapping-up point).

Perhaps this is childish.  Friends of mine who have young children tell me that their kids can watch the same episode of their favorite shows over and over and over and over without losing interest… and if me having the same background noise week after week makes me childish, so be it.

What about you?  Are your work habits repetitious, or varied?  What do you do to set the tone for your work environment?

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3 Replies to “Working Habits: Background Noise”

  1. I do almost the same thing. I’ve been watching the Granada Television Series about Sherlock Holmes (it’s on Netflix Instant). There are quite a few one-hour episodes and several longer movies. I started watching them in February and now I watch them through from beginning to end, then start the whole series over again. I know the plots now so I don’t have to have strict attention. I know multi-tasking isn’t supposed to be a good thing — but if I’m doing work that doesn’t need to engage my entire brain, I like having something on in the background.

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  2. I’m with you, in that my background noise has to be something I know really, really well, or it’s distracting. It also helps if it’s simple and doesn’t demand brain power–if I listen to my favorite music, I get distracted by actually listening to it, but if I put on something enjoyable-but-brainless, I’m golden.

    Confession: I’ve been listening to a lot of Katy Perry and P!nk as I work recently. If your habit is childish, mine is infantile. :-)

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