[email protected] is a music streaming service specifically designed to help you focus.
Ever listen to the same music on a loop to help you focus and study? Do you feel more productive working in a coffee shop?
Me too! It turns out that certain noises are just right to occupy part of your brain so you can focus better.
In this post I’ll describe the concept and the research behind [email protected] and let you know what I thought about trying their music with my neuroatypical ADHD brain / VAST mind while I am recovering from burnout.
Don’t worry, you won’t necessarily hate the music! [email protected] has a wide selection of music specifically designed to help you focus, but there are some very unconventional options.
[email protected]: Concentration Music for Work
Will Hanshell, the founder of [email protected] is a musician and hit songwriter. He also has ADHD and is a serial entrepreneur and inventor.
After selling his start-up, he agreed to a common arrangement: to work at the new company for 18 months.
He was horrified to realize what he had actually agreed to: he had to work in a cubicle!
He was used to being the boss and having a more ‘free-range’ working style.
Looking for solutions to this nightmare, he asked co-workers what music helped them focus at work.
He was fascinated by their answers. There were two basic camps: those that listened to dance music and those that listened to classical music.
This curious discovery was the seed that lead to [email protected].
Music in the Workplace: Let the Battle Begin!
When I heard this story, I thought ‘OMG! I know exactly what he is talking about!‘
As a young lab rat (graduate student), every day I entered battle for control of the lab radio. Since I loved grunge music I lost the battle frequently.
One day, as the usual classical music filled the lab, I cried out ‘This is hurting my ears!’.
It’s pretty embarrassing in retrospect.
But, this experience is just what Will Henshall discovered: People have polar opposite taste in music they want at work.
Based on [email protected] research, the more easily distracted you are, the more energy you need in music to help you focus.
[email protected]: How to Focus With ADHD
Why on earth would high energy music help you concentrate? Welcome to the ADHD brain.
Dr. Ned Hallowell, ADHD expert, (and author of many books on ADHD, including the most recent ADHD 2.0) explained that fast paced music works like stimulants and coffee. It ‘overclocks the brain’ which helps to calm someone with ADHD down.
What? Wouldn’t calm music be the best to help you focus? Nope, not if your brain is ADHD like mine.
Dr. Hallowell says concentration is like this: our brains have a ‘Pay Attention Clock!’ that jolts you about every 4 seconds.
Your ‘Pay Attention Clock!’ reminds you to keep focus.
Like cox in a rowboat yelling ‘Pull!’, ‘Pull!’, ‘Pull!’ your brain reminds you to ‘Stay on Task!’.
But with ADHD, our ‘Pay Attention Clock!’ is running slowly. So we get a lull in between reminders, and we get more easily distracted.
But we can speed up our ‘Pay Attention Clock!’ with high energy music.
High energy music reminds ADHD brains to ‘Stay on Task!‘
[email protected]: Thinking Music
[email protected] has a scientific team and years of research on how music helps us focus and think.
They found a direct link between the most effective music to help you focus and how easily distractable you are, and your Big Five (OCEAN) personality traits.
But… does it work?
[email protected] has over 2 million users, and some listen 8 hours per day. So it seems like they have figured something out, whether you have ADHD or not.
[email protected] music is proven to help with task persistence, implicit precognition, creative thinking, and perceived focus.
The most impressive result? A strong effect on creative thinking. Which is something people with ADHD already excel at.
But…. it doesn’t work for everyone.
Some people have no improvement in productivity with music, about 1/3 of the population. For another 1/3 of the population the right music helps but not dramatically.
But…. when it works, it really, really works!!!
In 1/3 of everyone they tested, music made a huge difference in productivity. Like in an “OMG!! This is magic!’ type of way.
And guess what? I am totally one of those people! I was shocked with the effect [email protected] had.
[email protected] Trial
The [email protected] trial is free for a week but requires a credit card. So this is perfect to figure out if it will work for you or not. Believe me, it doesn’t take long!
A questionnaire determines your ‘Focus Personality’ and then suggests a music channel.
Founder Will Henshall says they have about an 80% accuracy at predicting which channel will work for you.
[email protected] Personality Questions
- How many times a day do you take stimulants such as caffeine, chocolate or other substances?
- What is your think type? Creative / Logical / Entrepreneur / Student / Other
- Are you more introverted or extroverted?
- Have you been diagnosed with ADHD?
- How good is your general ability to focus, without a focusing tool?
- Do you see yourself as someone who is generally reserved?
- Do you see yourself as someone who is generally trusting?
- Do you see yourself as someone who tends to be lazy?
- Do you see yourself as someone who is relaxed and handles stress well?
- Do you see yourself as someone who has few artistic interests?
- Do you see yourself as someone who is outgoing, sociable?
- Do you see yourself as someone who finds fault with others?
- Do you see yourself as someone who does a thorough job?
- Do you see yourself as someone who gets nervous easily?
- Do you see yourself as someone who has an active imagination?
Your recommended music channel is shown: For me it was NatureBeat.
You can redo the questionnaire anytime, or get others to try. I redid it and got The Deep. Friends got: NatureBeat, Atmosphere and Powertool.
[email protected]: Best Concentration Music
I started with the suggestion: the NatureBeat channel.
Once you select your channel, you set the timer, and the energy level you want (low, medium, or high)….and Focus!
Now, this is not the type of music I would choose myself. ‘Naturebeat’ is electronic music with some bird sounds. I’m not saying I hated it. It was … ummm … fine.
C’mon, I once loved grunge music. My current musical taste runs more to jazz with strong vocals, like Ella and Louis.
But remember, [email protected] isn’t for enjoyment, it is to help you work. You actually don’t want to be distracted to a song you’d sing along to.
So, how did it go?
This might seem crazy, but that once I started focusing on my task, I didn’t really hear the music anymore. Even if it is music you don’t particularly like, it just fades to the background while you get engrossed in your project.
I had a book I has been trying to read for months. I’d pick it up, read a little and put it down. For months.
So, I set a goal to read one chapter. I put on [email protected] and sat down with the book. I ended up reading two chapters.
Of a book I had struggling to read for months.
While listening to odd electronic music with bird sounds.
This music did what it was supposed to do, [email protected] helped me focus on a task I had been avoiding.
[email protected]: Coffee Shop Music
Ok, so it works.
But what about the other music channels? Here is a photo of my [email protected] channel picker dashboard. It doesn’t even show all the channels, notice the arrows on the right leading to more options.
For focus my favourite channel ended up being ‘Cappucino‘, one of two coffee shop channel options.
For me this channel is worth the subscription alone. It really is like working in a coffee shop, I love it!
You can even choose how large/busy the ‘coffeeshop’ is using the low to high energy selection. It is pretty cool, and it totally helps me focus.
But I also found it had another benefit:
I was sitting on my front porch working with the [email protected] ‘Cappucino’ channel on my headphones, when my neighbour popped by. I removed one side of my headphones to chat with my neighbour.
And…. we had a great chat! Usually our conversations are disjointed because we are both pretty distractable people. But with [email protected] in my ear, I had better conversation control.
I was able to listen longer, it took me less effort to hold myself back from sharing my views too quickly.
It was fascinating. As one of my ADHD friends who uses [email protected] to help her get through paperwork said: ‘They call it science, I call it magic!’.
[email protected]: Calming Music?
I noticed something else, listening to [email protected] helped calm me. I’m currently recovering from burnout and I’m following heath data on my Apple watch.
My heart rate is a little lower, heart rate variability is a little higher, and my sleep hours are better in the days since I started using [email protected].
Now, I happened to change my lifestyle in other ways too, so it was hardly a controlled experiment. Who knows what role if any [email protected] had, but my heart rate does drop about 5 beats per minute every time I use it.
I found this interesting, and I remembered Will Henshall discussing why [email protected] music specifically does not include vocals or anything that even sounds like vocals.
Here is the idea: We are evolutionarily trained to assess for safety through our hearing. Our non-conscious attention is diverted to assess for safety if we hear a voice, or something that sounds like a voice.
Based on this lack of vocals, [email protected] music calms the ‘fight or flight’ part of brain. Because that lets us relax and focus.
Even the ‘Café Focus’ channel is engineered to sound like in a cafe full of people, but in a way where your brain isn’t compelled to try to listen in on conversations.
So, it might be that the music doesn’t just help me focus, but is helping to calm down my overactive sympathetic nervous system. One more tool in my burnout recovery toolbox!
[email protected] ‘Powertool’: ADHD Hyperfocus Music!
There is also the infamous [email protected] ‘Powertool’ music channel which apparently 5% of [email protected] users listen to eight hours a day.
The Powertool music channel is described in the app as ADHD, ADD • Industrial, glitch. Intense, noisy EDM channel scientifically proven to help.
Founder Will Henshall describes it this way:
Like a car door slamming again and again at 200 beats per minute.[email protected] founder describing the Powertool Channel
I think his description is a bit over the top. When I listened to it I actually found it comforting and nostalgic!
It reminded me of dancing the night away to my beloved grunge music. But I’m not in my 20s anymore, I haven’t slam danced for awhile.
I tried ‘Powertool’ for awhile, but did not end up being my favourite for work.
The reason why? It didn’t fade into the background, I think I liked it too much!
But I can see why it works for many people. One customer wrote Will Henshall about his experience using the ADHD music channel (which he clearly detested) with his child who has ADHD:
‘I went into his bedroom and I put it on. I played this piece of crap music … and … I had the first real conversation with my seven year old that I’ve had for a long time.’
[email protected]: Music Timer
If like me, you like to use a timer for the ‘Pomodoro Method’, [email protected] has a really easy timer set up.
Just choose your music, click on the timer and choose how much time (up to 240 minutes). And you are ready to work!
- 30 minutes of work
- Take 5 minutes to rest / stretch / assess (Be Mindful!)
- to Repeat – just click on play again
I’ve tried a number of apps for this routine. I really like how easy this one is, and I actually like the Ding. The sound does not annoy me.
[email protected] Review Summary
I really like [email protected] and plan to continue using it. It improved my ability to focus with reading and writing. (Yes, I am listening to it now as I type this.)
It was an extra tool to help me control and harness my ADHD hyperfocus/hyperfixation. (Hyperfixation can be a real bane for people with ADHD, the definition of hyperfixation is discussed here.)
It helped me have more mindful conversations. I also found myself overall calmer when using [email protected].
I found it very easy and intuitive to use, on both computer and phone. There are a ton of ‘channel’ options including my favourite, a coffeeshop with binaural entrainment.
I prefer [email protected] to Brain.fm for both ease of interaction and the sound of the music. I may cover this in more detail in another post.
Now, will it work for you? The founder himself admits that this type of product only works for 2/3 of people from their data. But for 1/3 of people it seems to work very well, and I am one of those people.
If like me, you are easily distractable (adult ADHD diagnosis with burnout here!) you may find this to be on par with a taking a stimulant in terms of how much it helps you focus.
Here is a link to their website:
Interested in more tools to improve cognition and focus? Check out my posts on Non-Sleep Deep Rest and the Huberman Lab’s scientifically approved supplements for brain health.
- The Influence of Streamlined Music on Cognition and Mood
- Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast – Brain Music with [email protected] with founder Will Henshall
- Faster Than Normal Podcast: Overclocking the ADHD brain via musical energy with [email protected] Founder Will Henshall
- Productivity Straight Talk Podcast: Focus At Will: Boosting Productivity With Personalized Music With Will Henshall