Based in Sydney, Australia, Foundry is a blog by Rebecca Thao. Her posts explore modern architecture through photos and quotes by influential architects, engineers, and artists.

My Favorite Tools For Focus

According to a peer-reviewed study out of the University of Chicago, ambient noise is conducive to creative cognition.

More specifically, it helps processing disfluency and arousal. The study states, "we show that a moderate (vs. low) level of ambient noise induces processing disfluency, which leads to abstract cognition and consequently enhances creativity." Whether it's writing, reading or layout work, sometimes you just need to get exclusively focused on the task at hand. Here are the tools I use to get dialed into my work with the ability to focus and process information well:

1. Rdio (get it)


Tunes are a great supporter of focus. I have a few different playlists and albums depending on the time of day and mood I'm in. It's important to match your soundtrack to your work. Music actually has been proven to have a huge impact on your productivity. Some specific music I listen to:

  • My ultimate focus album is the Tron Legacy Reconfigured soundtrack. It's amazing.
  • Echoes of Nature is an awesome rainstorm soundtrack. More natural than an app can produce. More on this later.
  • The Adventure album by Madeon is a great focus album with a little energy behind it. A good late morning album, as you transition from waking up to getting in the zone. 
  • I don't listen to a lot with words, but for late afternoon boosts I'll often go with PTX, Vo. III. I have to give a nod my man Kevin Olusola. 
  • When I really need to crank the energy up a notch, but still focus and not get distracted by the tunes, I'll go with Capital Cities Safe and Sound Remix EP.
  • Bach: Unaccompanied Cello Suites from Yo-Yo Ma is a very chill album. A great evening listen.

2. Noizio (get it)

Noizio is an awesome iOS and OSX application that allows you to dial in a perfect ambient noise mix. You independently mix in variables like October rain, thunder, summer day, or Paris cafe. You can set your ideal working environment, sonically. Do you prefer to read in a cafe on a rainy day? Or maybe you prefer to sit on the beach on a sunny afternoon? Create whatever you like. And it's free!

3. Grammarly (get it)

Grammarly is a great tool for writing, not only for the editing features, but because of the simplicity. There's little to distract you or get in your way. I would highly suggest using it for any kind of writing that requires you to get focused on the task. These days I use it for blog posts, articles, and long e-mails.

4. Coffitivity (get it)

Place yourself in cafe's around the world with the sounds from Coffitivity. This web application has high quality, looping, audio from many different settings. It's a more robust library than can be found within Noizio. You can combine the two, using Noizio for ambient nature sounds and Coffitivity for the cafe ambiance. I will also often combine Coffitivity with Rdio.

What tools do you use to focus? What music do you listen to? I'd love to get your feedback in the comments.


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