Performance enhancement

Hierarchy is alive and well in university world, and nowhere is that more visible than in the allocation of office space. I have a desk in a large office that used to be a seminar room that houses 8 desks (not all of them currently occupied and some people are part time, but still …). Shared workspaces are a special brand of torture for me, not only for being sensitive to environmental noise but also not wanting to be the Grumpy Person all the time. However, this is not a gripe about resources or less than ideal work spaces.

One of the things that I have discovered to get me through is music that I don’t have to curate. With my comfy noise-cancelling headphones, I started exploring Spotify and happened across the Intense Studying playlist.The premise is linked to the ‘Mozart Effect’ on spatio-temporal reasoning, which may or may not generalise to other activities, including running and other sport/exercise activities. Initially this was in desparation as a means of drowning out office chatter so I had a hope of being able to focus on what I was thinking and writing. It does reasonably well but I also found it to help me stay focused and be less distracted even when there isn’t extraneous noise.

I have started using it more and more because I have found it helps me put the metaphorical blinkers on and stay with the thoughts and ideas I’m chewing on. It may help that I enjoy the broad classical music genre and find the ‘wall of sound’ it creates useful for keeping the aural input downregulated so that I can think, organise my ideas, and write. I’ve since discovered an electronica equivalent playlist that scratches that auditory itch. I could create my own playlists on Spotify or on various other music playing devices, but the beauty of these are that someone else has already put them together and I just have to hit ‘play.’ The classical music one has also reminded me how much I enjoy Beethoven’s Symphony no. 6 in F (the ‘Pastoral’ symphony – if you’ve seen Fantasia, you’ll recognise it).

I may be training myself into a conditioned response or it may have some other means of effective performance enhancement, but at this point I will consider any trick that might work to get this thesis written. Of all the possibilities, this one is quite pleasant, has minimal impact on others and the only side effect I can imagine is that it may take a bit more work to get into the writing groove without it if I get too habituated to it.

I’m writing this in part because I need to write. I’ve crafted myself a writing schedule and promptly intimidated myself over the amount of work I have to do in the next year. Even though blogging is not the same as drafting a piece of academic writing, it’s still writing and it’s useful to remind myself that I can organise my ideas into a form that is intelligible to others.

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