I feel sorry for PhD students who prefer to work in silence. Most students (and postdocs) will be assigned a desk in a shared office. Lab-dwelling students cannot realistically expect a quiet working environment. Jenny describes the sounds of science:
However, at your desk it is reasonable to expect to be able to concentrate amid the conversations, comings and goings that are inevitable even with the most considerate of colleagues. Fortunately (for me) I have always preferred working with background noise. I never mastered doing my homework in front of the television, but I did used to work with half an ear on the UK top 40 counting down as I finished my weekend assignments on a Sunday afternoon.
Sharing a busy office, it is easier to focus on my work without distractions by plugging myself into my headphones. After Sylvia tweeted her preferred music grant-writing album
I thought about my own listening and whether, too, prefer particular music for specific tasks. If I am working in the evening, I sometimes turn to classic FM to calm my mind and help me focus, but during the day I prefer the idiosyncrasies of Radio 4 to keep me entertained. Podcasts are useful too, I have followed Simon Mayo’s film review show for a number of years, and can be caught barely suppressing laughter if I am listening to the Friday Night Comedy Podcast. If I am feeling low, I have been known to seek comfort in the local radio station from my hometown. A number of science podcasts are available – see here for a somewhat outdated list, and here for a list with an emphasis on technology.
Do you prefer to work in silence (and if so, how do you deal with distractions)? If you do prefer to listen while you work, what do you choose to listen to?