Try this right now: Coffitivity

Working? Get your brain in gear with just the right amount of background noise
Coffee shop

If you work from home or otherwise alone and are struggling to find your productivity sweet spot, it could be that where you’re working is just too darn quiet.

Image credit: Roey Ahram

OK, what’s this all about?


That’s the theory behind Coffitivity, a web service designed to boost your creativity by replicating the ambient background noise of a coffee shop. Why there? Well, apparently that mix of calm and commotion is proven to help fire up your productivity.

Won’t noise distract me?

Not always. A team of researchers has found that ambient noise can be conducive to creativity and productivity. In a paper published in March 2012, Ravi Mehta, Rui Zhu and Amar Cheema demonstrated that a “moderate” amount of background noise (70dB) enhances performance on creative tasks, even when compared to a “low” (50dB) amount of similar background noise; a “high” (85dB) amount of noise will reduce productivity.

Why is this the case? The researchers say that a moderate amount of noise makes a task more difficult, which in turn induces a higher level of construal activity in the brain. This activity aids abstract processing and thus boosts creativity. Make sense?

Science, schmience – does it actually work?

Testing Coffitivity

Coffitivity can be used alone or with music (the site recommends you set your music player volume to be slightly louder than the ambient noise). I gave it a try (in fact I’m using it while writing these very words) and while there were no electrodes wired to my dome to check brain activity, I found myself churning out words at an impressive rate. Mind you, I had just gulped down a cup o’ joe bought from a real-life coffee shop, so the caffeine cranking through my nervous system may have contributed towards my accelerated typing too.

I often struggle to get going on a piece of writing while listening to music, but when combined with Coffitivity’s unobtrusive mixture of chattering voices and clanking crockery, Spotify ceased being quite so distracting. The voices are indistinct so that you never actually make out a word, and there doesn’t appear to be any discernible loop to the background sound, so it quickly becomes just that: in the background.

So it's just a web service?

At the moment, yes. You need to run it in your browser. But iOS and OS X apps are promised soon.