February 11, 2013

Focus@Will Uses Music to Help You Stay Focused

Staying focused was probably easier when we didn’t have all these gadgets in our lives. Just when you start concentrating on a particular task, you’re interrupted. Whether you’re distracted by your gadget or some other stimulus that keeps you off task, running through anything from start to finish is usually not without a side project at some point.

A new service called Focus@Will, currently available only in the U.S. in open beta, aims to get you focused by doing something the vast majority of us like doing – listening to music. Though ironic that often the same technology distracting us is now used to refocus us, at the end of the day it’s how you use it that determines the nature of its affect on your productivity.

The HTML5 Web app makes it accessible as a cross-platform tool, supported in Chrome and Windows 7. Although the site states it only supports Chrome and Windows 7 while signing up, Firefox also seems to be working with the app.

According to the company, Native mobile apps for iOS and Android (NewsAlert) will be available at a later time.

So how does listening to music help one focus on the task you are trying to accomplish? The system helps by keeping you within a rhythm of concentration – a sense of flow that is meant to boost most people’s stamina for concentration from a maximum of 20 to 30 minutes, to up to 100 minutes.

According to Focus@Will, “It works in the background by subtly soothing the part of your brain, the limbic system, that is always on the lookout for danger, food, sex or shiny things.” The limbic system is an extremely complex component of our brain responsible for many different functions, including memory, learning, emotions and drives.

The research for this technology is based on the company’s “two years of in-depth productivity research, working closely with 200 alpha participants. [W]e commissioned a Bowker market research project with over 72,000 respondents and we continue to run trials with our favorite UCLA psychology team.”

The music has five different 20-minute phases to keep you focused during the 100-minute cycle. Each phase is designed to keep you moving along before habituation takes place. Habituation begins when your brain gets used to something and tunes other things out, thereby losing focus on the music being played.

Many different factors determine what type of music is played, including timing, location, arrangement, speed, key, intensity, recording style and other elements of sound.

All the music used for this service is instrumental with acoustic, alpha chill, ambient, cinematic, classical, focus spa, jazz and up-tempo genres. The service is free, but the firm has plans to introduce paid subscription services in the future.

Edited by Braden Becker


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