#028: How Focus@Will Improves Focus, Productivity and Creativity

Summary: In this episode I've brought on Focus@Will's Founder and CEO Will Henshall. He'll explain what it is, why it works and what's behind the technology.

Music has been a big part of my life since I was a kid. But for years I had the hardest time finding music that enabled me to focus on my work.

I spent hours carefully curating playlists on iTunes. I tried dozens of Pandora stations. And, of course, I tried the old standby — classical music.

Nothing ever worked consistently.

And then in 2013 I discovered Focus@Will, an online service that plays music that's scientifically designed to improve and sustain your focus.

After an hour of sampling their free trial, I was hooked. And I've been a loyal customer since then.

I don't normally do shows about paid products or services. But I'm such a believer in this service that I felt compelled to share it with you.

And to explain what its, why it works and what's behind the technology, I've brought on Will Henshall, Focus@Will's Founder and CEO, to the show.

The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes or Stitcher to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.

What is Focus@Will?

Focus@Will is an audio service that helps you concentrate when working or studying. It uses music and sounds to quiet parts of the brain that are easily distracted. It affects the mechanism that makes it hard for us to stay focused: the fight or flight mechanism.

Focus@Will works well for studying and creative work. Anyone who has to sit at a computer and create may benefit from it.

It works equally well for men and women. On average, it works for two out of every three people.

How did the idea for Focus@Will come about?

Will Henshall is an inventor with a particular interest in how the brain works. In a previous career, he was a musician and songwriter for the group London Beat. He knows how to create music people want to listen to.

clicktotweetMany people like to listen to music when working, but it’s often distracting.

"Regular" music demands your attention. Music is traditionally built around a hook that's designed to engage you. If you try to listen to this music while working, it's distracting. It's hard to find music that's not engaging because that's what people want to listen to.

How are the music and sounds of Focus@Will different?

We all have a conscious brain and a subconscious brain. The subconscious brain is home of the fight or flight mechanism. This mechanism has the subconscious brain constantly on alert, listening for sounds as a signal of danger. When you sit down to create something at work, this mechanism is still active. Every 20 minutes or so, even if you haven’t heard anything unusual, it will want to check in with the conscious brain, making us pause and lose our focus.

The music and sounds of Focus@Will are designed to keep our subconscious brain busy so it will stop bugging you. It engages the part of the mind that distracts you and sustains it beyond these 20-minute intervals.

Each piece of music in Focus@Will is custom designed for this purpose. It has no vocals or vocal-like instruments (such as saxophones or oboes) because they prompt your brain to check for danger.

What do people get when they subscribe?

Today, Focus@Will has 18 channels, plus some beta channels. Different channels have different intensity levels. All sounds are unique to Focus@Will. Every file has been remixed and re-mastered to help keep you focused beyond the typical 20-minute interval. The playlist sequence is also designed for this purpose.

How does one determine the best station and intensity level to use?

Everyone's brain works differently. Some of us are hyper; some of us are chill. The music that works best for you will depend on where you are on that scale. The more hyper you are, the more energy you need in the music stream and vice versa.

Start by finding the channel that works for you then fine tune the intensity level. You want to get the point where you don't even notice the tracks anymore. You may find you need a greater or lesser intensity level at different parts of the day.

Do we need headphones to use Focus@Will?

The audio service works with either headphones or speakers. For the very best experience, use noise-cancelling headphones.

How much does the service cost?

Subscriptions are $49.99 for one year, $69.99 for two years and, for a limited time, $199.99 for a lifetime subscription.

You can also sign up for a free 30-day trial to try out the service. If you like it and you decide to sign up for a one-year subscription, you'll get an automatic 20% off your subscription.

There's nothing to do. No discount code to enter. Just sign up via this link and you'll discount will be applied if you decide to move from the free trial to the one-year paid subscription.

NOTE: This is NOT an affiliate link. It's just a special perk for listeners of my show. I earn nothing from your Focus@Will subscriptions.

  • Cheryl Bryan

    Ed, I've heard you talk about Focus@Will before -- even signed up -- but had never really used it. After this podcast I decided to give it a try. I'm really enjoying it -- especially the timer. Starting my little desk timer used to be the signal for me to get busy -- and know when to stop. The quiet "ding" at the end of the session is much more pleasant than the annoying 10-minute and 5-minute warning rings of the timer -- and is much more effective.

    I think it may have helped my creativity, too. I just wrote what I thought was a killer 30-second radio ad! Thanks!

    • edgandia

      Excellent! Great to hear that, Cheryl. Completely agree about the timer. So much nicer than my previous online egg timer's obnoxious school bell ring tone! 🙂

  • Yoav

    This service was made for me. I love working with music but have always had a hard time getting the right mix. This service is aimed at the exact type of music I need, the type that allows me to be focused but not distracted, and it and also learns my preferences, so its ideal.
    Thank for the heads up, Ed!

    • edgandia

      Cool! Great to hear that it's working for you.

  • Lino A. Sanchez

    do we get a discount if we want to pay for the lifetime membership?

    • edgandia

      Hi Lino. I'm not sure. I would contact them directly and ask.

  • Christine W

    Ed, thanks for sharing the information about Focus@Will. I signed up for the trial and noticed that my self-rated productivity increased from a variable 50% to 75%-100% every time I have the service on. I've suggested it to other writers with home-based businesses. Everyone who has tried it and has had a similar experience. Thanks again!

    • edgandia

      That's fantastic! Thanks for letting me know. I noticed immediate and very noticeable improvements as well when I first used it. Which is why I immediately went from free trial to their annual plan.

  • Cathy Laskiewicz

    Hi Ed, thank you for this fascinating podcast! As a designer, I do find that music gets me into the "zone" where I need to be and helps sustain my attention. I find that ambient music has worked the best for me, especially when I am in a deep stage of development within the design process. Another strange thing that has yielded some great results is listening to 80's music, particularly when working on a "fun" project! I believe it is because the association I have with it as a child, when my art teacher in middle school would let us listen to the radio as we created our artwork. It was a carefree time where I was exploring my young talent. Plus, the nostalgia puts me in a great mood. Another designer recently told me that listening to 80's music during work has become a habit as well.

    I do find that I cannot listen to current music and concentrate as well. The vocals and lyrics are definitely distracting, and since the music is new, I don't have a "second nature" listening experience with it yet.

    I am certainly very interested in checking out the free trial for Focus@Will. I find the information about it in your podcast quite intriguing, and I am always up for anything that will enhance my creative skills and concentration. Whenever I do have to write, I usually shut music off, so it would be interesting to see how I can adapt to listen to something while I do it. Listening to music while designing has always been much easier.

    By the way, as soon as Will Henshall mentioned that he wrote that Londonbeat song, it immediately got (pleasantly) stuck in my head!

    • edgandia

      80's music? Love it! I love listening to the New Order station on Pandora when I'm cooking or doing stuff around the house.

      BTW, I agree that listening to music while designing is easier than when writing. Give it a try next time you write. I think you'll be impressed.

  • Maria

    I'm glad to read this isn't an affiliate link, Ed. Thanks for that assurance. OK, now to the information. Here's what my conscious brain says: This is a lot of baloney. I then checked in with my subconscious, and golly gee, it said the same thing (but only after twenty minutes). Seriously, I'm not one to reject anything out of hand, so perhaps I'll go for the free trial. The thing is, I just came from about an hour-and-a-half's worth of writing a presentation without a break in concentration, so forgive me if my initial reaction is a bit skeptical.

    • edgandia

      Maria -- I respect that. If you're not experiencing any focus or concentration issues, this may not be for you. As a long-time user, I can tell you that it's not baloney. At least not for me. All I can do is share my own experience and opinion.

      • Maria

        It's true, Ed, I sometimes shoot from the hip and, in so doing, might miss the target. I actually didn't intend to deny your experience nor did I even mean to deny that one might need an aid to focus. Some people, for example, can't think without pacing. Hal identified for me the reason my antennae started quivering: There's too much marketing out there that masquerades as science, and that's how the “fight/flight” tie-in struck me. Which makes this an interesting example for me of how the presentation of proof can sometimes get in the way of a sale.

        • edgandia

          No worries, Maria. I just wanted you to emphasize that I've tried this myself for 18 months and have personally experienced tremendous results. That's the only reason I had Will on the show. Otherwise I would have never pursued him for this interview.

    • Dana

      Or perhaps it's baloney to you because you're in the 33% that don't respond to it. To be honest I used this program today for the first time ever (free) and I actually focused enough to write a few pages on a 20-page brochure I've been procrastinating on for 3 weeks. It felt good to make a bit of progress! I'm a believer, but not convinced I should pay for it... yet. 🙂

    • Hal Jalikakik

      Maria, I suggest you apply a bit of your bionic focus towards learning the science behind Focus@Will (https://www.focusatwill.com/wp/science/science-primer/) and also examining the qualifications of the people who created it.

      Dr. Edward Hallowell - arguably the world's foremost expert on Attention Deficit Disorder - would not attach his name to "baloney".

      Yes, there are a lot of scams and overhyped digital products out there. This isn't one of them.

  • rachelfoster

    I also use this service. Prior to using this, I wouldn't listen to music while I was working, as I found it distracting. Focus@Will does improve my productivity. I like the Alpha Chill channel. It makes me feel like my home office is a hip advertising agency.

    • edgandia

      I know, right? Is it weird how quickly it gets you in the zone? And I'm with you on the Alpha Chill channel. Super-hip. Did that channel for months when I started w/ F@W. But been doing more Up-tempo medium lately. So my home office feels like a hip downtown club. Lol! 🙂

      • John Thomas

        The chill channel is great! I've been checking out the Drum and Hum lately, too.