Get in the Zone: Developers and Headphones

Here's the thing with developers - they come to work, say "Hi" to one another, chit-chat a bit and then put on headphones. Headphones had become a part of the mandatory equipment, just like the monitor or a keyboard are. Are headphones just a trend or do they help with getting in the zone?

Listening to music while working is just one way to get in the zone. We wanted to find out does listening to music increase the productivity level and if so, which music genre creates "the best mood".

Here's our point of view.

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What is "the zone"?

The zone is described as a state of mind in which a person is hyper-focused and super productive. Kinda like turning into the Hulk but without all that anger issues.

Analyzing it on a chemical level, being in the zone provides great pleasure. That pleasurable feeling has to do with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs theory. Simply put, one of the human needs is the need for accomplishment and that is precisely what the zone provides.

If you want to learn more about Maslow's theory, be sure to check out Leanne Butkovic's post on fastcompany.com.

How to get in the zone?

The focus is the main ingredient of the zone. No matter what you are doing - coding, designing or writing, being focused is a good starting point.

However, we need to emphasize the fact that a person can be focused only when his/her energy is balanced. This means no stress, no interruptions and distractions, just you and your thoughts, seeing clearly the problem and using a creativity to solve it.

So, what can you do to concentrate better?

Here's our take on how to get in the zone:

  • know that the goal of the task is,
  • know when are you the most productive,
  • shut down all communication channels except the ones you need (like Slack or Skype),
  • wear headphones to minimize all the interruptions,
  • take a break when you need it,
  • openly say to your co-workers you are currently working and are not in the mood for chit-chatting.

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Headphones and the zone

Like we had mentioned, more and more developers work the same, every day. They come to work, chit-chat a bit and then put on their headphones and listen to music. However, that's just one way to get in the zone.

The ultimate goal of the zone is to concentrate and be focused on what you are doing. Music helps with that.

There is no secret that listening to music can increase productivity level. Having a rhythm in the background makes you keep the pace.

Here are the reasons music is so good for you:

  1. It can inspire - listening to epic, movie themes can lead to a more successful project creation.
  2. It can remove work dullness - sometimes, when you are testing and doing the same tasks over and over again, it's good to have something that can break that circle.
  3. It can decrease the level of stress - music is therapeutical.
  4. It eliminates all the other noises - chair creaking, a colleague's eating habits, or some other interruptions.

What to listen to?

You know how, when you were little, there was a study that has shown that while doing math task, you should listen to Mozart in order to solve the issues faster? The same thing goes for developers and music.

It would be wrong of us to tell you what music you should listen to. Music is an individual part and everyone has different taste. However, here's what proved to be a good practice for many developers.

If you listen to 10-20 tracks that have vocals in them over and over again, your productivity level is probably not going to increase. The reason for this is the fact that you'll learn the text and most likely start signing in the middle of the task.

We suggest you listen to music without vocals or lyrics. Also, avoid listening to new tunes since they require more attention - your brain automatically focuses on remembering the lyrics and melody.

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Against the zone?

Not all of the developers love being in the zone. According to Kenneth Tryers from kenneth-tryers.net, this code is mostly too complex when he is in the zone. As Kenneth explains, creativity raises the will and motivation to solve problems which means that the code is usually more complex than it should be. When debugging such a code, the programmer has to be in the zone, as well.

However, we must admit our developers have never experienced this type of problem.

Final thoughts

There is no reason you can't get in the zone. Listen to your natural balance and how the body works and then find out what is the easiest way for you to get in the zone.

Thank you for taking the time to read our blog post. We hope that this article on how to get in the zone helped you to understand how important the zone is and what you can do to achieve this state of mind.

development, the zone, headphones, music
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