Do you listen to music while working on your programming project? Is it okay, helpful or a bad idea? Are you an enterprise developer and are you able to make this decision or are you forced to sit in a quiet environment or listen to your boss’ favorite radio program?
I recently discussed the topic, and I was not sure on which side to put myself. From time to time I like having a quiet environment which lets me focus on a problem and dive deep into the internals of any given code.
On other days, I like having music in my ears. Sometimes it helps me concentrate on a specific problem and helps me avoid other distractions.
In this article, I’m going to discuss the pros and cons of listening to music while programming. Some information is based on a bit of research, and I also give my own opinion on the topic.
Listening to music can help you get into the “zone”. It’s a powerful state most developers hit from time to time where the world seems to be irrelevant and the only thing that needs to be done is the problem you’re working on.
Music also helps you reduce the impact of the environment on you. If you’re working in an open space office or in a noisy restaurant it might be helpful to reduce the noise around you and by listening to music you have control over what you hear.
Music can motivate you to get things done. Sometimes you think hard about a problem and cannot decide on which solution fits best and you end up in a deadlock in your brain. Music can help you get things done. The nature of tracks ending and rhythms changing can urge your brain to make decisions. I do not have scientific evidence for this, but I once read about it and I think it’s true for me.
You can block off co-workers. Seriously, depending on your office situation it can be helpful to isolate you against people lurking around and asking you stupid things. I am all for working together as a team and if someone has an important question he or she can always approach me at my desk. But how often people stop by just to talk to you about their weekend and other non-work related things? It’s happened to me, and I am sure, it happened to you.
One of the most heard arguments against listening to music while working is that you get distracted from work. Indeed, if most of your day consists of changing tracks, adjusting volumes, managing your playlist, and finding the newest music to listen to, it can be a big distraction.
Some people also claim that your brain cannot do multiple things at once and therefore it is generally a bad idea to listen to anything while doing work.
An interesting topic is the type of music you listen. Usually, I listen to different music while working than I listen to while working out or doing something else in my free time. It is personal preference, but I have my logic why this might be a good thing.
First of all, I do not care about the music itself. If you listen to the new album of your favorite interpret, I am sure you want to catch more of it than just a few bits. Therefore, you should listen to it in your free time.
In general, music with fewer lyrics tends to work best for me. If there is too much singing or rapping going on my brains needs too much energy to absorb the lyrics.
I am not a fan of rules. It is especially true when it comes to working. In my opinion, every person knows himself best and is mature enough to do the right thing at the right time. But some offices have rules about using headphones or listening to music.
If the rules fit you, perfect, if not, I would try to speak up about it and provide arguments on why listening to music would help you do your job better. Sometimes you do not have the freedom to decide. You either accept it, or you move on.
I like the Flow functionality of Deezer. It’s an algorithm which selects music tracks for you. I think it’s trained based on my playlists but also on the music I listened to in general on the platform. It creates a good mix of different music styles which can run in the background and which help me to focus on my work.
I do not have to change tracks, and there are also new tracks mixed-in which makes it enjoyable even after a few hours or weeks. There is always something new in there, while some of the well-known tracks will be repeated over a few days.
I have never tried it, but as a regular listener to the DotNetRocks podcast, I know about Carl Franklin’s Music to Code by project. I’ve heard many success stories from people listening to those tracks which are “scientifically designed to quickly get you into a state of flow and keep you there”.
As I wrote above, I have not tried it yet. Do you have any experience with it? Let me know in the comments below. It might be worth checking it out in the future. I like the idea behind the project.
There is no right or wrong. There is no yes or no. If it makes sense for you to listen to music while working, you should do it. Some people will benefit, others don’t.
In my opinion, it’s up to you, how you want to work. With music, or without. The only important thing is that you make your decision on your own and that you make the most appropriate decision. Everyone is different.
Maybe it makes sense to listen to music for specific tasks while it’s best for you to have absolute silence when working on something different? Who knows?
There is no general answer to the question of whether you should listen to music while programming or not.
Let me know in the comments below how you deal with listening to music while programming. I am curious about your experience!
- Medium: Is it fine to listen to music while coding
- Jaxenter: Why you should listen to music while coding
- Quora: Does listening to music while programming really increase a programmers performance?
This article was originally published on claudiobernasconi.ch on February 20th, 2019.