One of the main sources of distraction at work is noise. I should rather say background noise. That could be phone ringing, people talking & laughing (in the Mauritian context some swearing too) and noise from moving objects. We do not realise but many times such noises drain our energy & make us less productive. Well, this could differ among people. There might be people who are more productive in a noisy environment. To know if you are such a person, you could apply the technique stated in this article & compare your work output or quality.
A popular technique, among my work colleagues, which I saw is listening to music, songs etc. It works for some people, I must admit. I've seen people cutting off completely from the work noise & working on their stuff with the earphones exploding the drums. I've tried that, it doesn't seem to work best. It's like replacing one noise by another. With the background noise like conversations, I might stop working and hop into the conversation because my brain picks up some words and I am interested in the topic. It is distraction. When listening to a song, a similar action happens, at least to me. My brain picks up the words from the lyrics, it somehow drains the energy. I then thought I'll try a different approach, listening to music only or soft instruments. It is less "noisy" but if the music is good, you start appreciating it and your brain responds by sending signals to other parts of your body; like swaying the head or tapping the foot. Damn! It still does not kill the distraction.
A colleague named Swanand, suggested that I try asoftmurmur.com. It is a collection of natural sounds such as rain, wind, thunder, waves etc. I tried it :-) It's soft and the best of all is that you get a set of configuration options. There is a list of background sounds that you can opt for. You can also raise or lower the volume level of each. For example, you could activate "thunder" sounds at maximum and play background sounds of a "coffee shop". That gives you a sound feeling like working while sitting in a coffee shop during a thunderstorm.
Okay, let's say the sound of coffee shop does not fit as it would be similar to background noise of the office, then how about a combination of "waves" and "birds". For a mystic feel, you could try the "singing bowl" as well :-)
Another friend, Ubeid, commented on my Facebook post a similar webapp which has a larger list of background sounds. It's called noisli.com.