What are you listening?
If you’re a developer in some regard, chances are you've got a pair of headphones and chances are you use them...daily. One of the unwritten clauses when you fill the position of a dev is that you spend most of your time with your ears filled with something that is sent through the above mentioned ‘phones’ (preferably music).
And of course we all have our favorites play listed: you got your Foo Fighters, Collective Soul, Linkin Park, Metallica, Dave Matthews Band, etc. (hopefully it’s not just some of my favorites. And of course some stuff in-between which you still have no idea how it got there. I for one discovered an entire discography of ABBA in my playlist.
Now you might think at this point: “Where’s Rammstein? Where’s Northern Kings?” or (and I hope this is not most of you) “Where’s Gaga?” They’re there, somewhere. Not Gaga though, but that’s beside the point.
You also might be thinking: “ Isn't this supposed to be about some kind of technology?” Well it is. Music is part of everything, it might not be a project that is part of your solution, but it’s a part of you. It determines your mood and can improve your productivity, although there aren't many studies that have proven this.
The thing is: as a developer I listen to music to exclude myself from my surroundings, the general sounds of the workplace: staplers... printers... coffee cups...that annoying voice coming from the corner of the office... By listening to music, I separate myself and can concentrate more on the task at hand.
What I listen to matters. A lot.
If I throw on a playlist filled with my favorites (Foo Fighters, Seether, Collective Soul, etc.), it makes me happy, and it lifts my mood. So it should supposedly lift my productivity. Well, not exactly. The problem is the lyrics: I learn the lyrics to the songs fairly quickly, and then I tend to start singing along (Only in my head, mind you) and in a few moments I realize that I am not quite sure which table I was supposed to join next.
An article from psycologytoday.com says the following:
“One of these days the ground will drop out from beneath your feet. One of these days your heart will stop and play its final beat. One of these days the clocks will stop and time won't mean a thing. One of these days their bombs will drop and silence everything.”
Oops, it happened again. Sorry for that. Let me just pause for a second here. OK. The article actually says this:
“As soon as you add words, you activate language centers in your brain, which interferes with any other language "tasks" you may need to work on (reading, writing, talking, etc.). Listen to music that doesn't include words...at least words you can understand. Enya uses words, but because of how she sings them, you can't understand what she's saying.”
So I've got my Enya playlist saved and start it up when I know I need to concentrate a bit more than usual, but then it does tend to be very laid back, which puts me in a very laid back mood. And if you've got a deadline which is creeping closer and closer, you can’t afford to be too laid back.
Enter Armin Van Buuren.
Please understand this: I am no fan of dance music. Not at a club. Not in my car. But give me a short deadline for a coding project and there are not a lot of things that gets me going like trance. I can’t listen to it for long periods, because I think my head might explode, but for a couple of hours it gives me a nice ‘zone’ state while coding.
And that is the point. Music makes an impact. When, where and what you listen to makes a difference to how you think and feel. And in turn that makes a difference to how productive you are.
In conclusion I’d say this: if you’re a developer and struggles to concentrate or get into that coding ’zone’, then rethink your coding playlist. And if you haven’t got one...well, go buy some ‘skullcandys’ and get listening. Thank me later.
- Additional shout out to Foo Fighters for the lyrics of ‘These Days’