How to Flow Into the Zone

Patrick God on January 26, 2018

One of the most beautiful moments when writing code is when you are totally focused and flow in the zone. When you have a clearly defined task a... [Read Full]
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Good ideas, but, then again, you have this scene from corporate cubicle hell...

Your boss' boss (non-programmer, of course) walks around the corner to ask if you have received his (yes, it's almost always a he) latest email. He gets upset that you don't immediately acknowledge him because you have on your noise canceling headphones. He then complains about you to your boss so you get a sternly worded HR approved memo scolding you and this incident gets mentioned as a negative on your next performance review. Plus, uber-boss decrees that headphones cannot be worn in the office because they are a "distraction from the conduct of our business".


This sounds terrible! I really hope these kinds of environments disappear and all those supervisors of that kind will learn that headphones are the opposite of a distraction.


The problem is that many non-tech corporations want the benefits of better technology, especially in areas like web/cloud services, but have little idea on how to achieve it. They tend to stick with what they know, usually something like a blend of autocracy and seagull management. They'll tend to treat outside consultants like gods and their tech employees like garbage.

That, unfortunately, is what it's like for many of us who work in "old school" corporations. Sometimes you can get little pockets where people understand but, sooner or later, a seagull is going to fly in and poop all over everything.


Very nice article.

I've tried to use the Pomodoro technique but I had a lot of problems with self-discipline so I abandon the idea at least for now. Maybe in the future, I'll try it again.

Respecting headphones I liked the idea. In my opinion, this technique has a big disadvantage. When you work in a team communication and interactions between team members are very important. Headphones ruin this because you are closed in your own world with music and computer and you aren't able to feel any external stimulus.

I've realized some time ago that eavesdropping other team members talks could be beneficial for the project. Sometimes your colleague is looking for a help but he or she doesn't know who can help him or her. I'm pretty sure that during the search he or she won't disturb someone being in the flow zone. It's very polite but it could be adverse in general because lack of the knowledge is a curse for a project.

On the other side if you're in the flow zone you don't want to exit it. It's often good for productivity because you can make more work. But the question is if the work is right? Maybe if you exit your zone and ask for someone's opinion you will realize that you're on wrong track and you will save a lot of time? Who knows?

To sum up. I use headphones when I need to concentrate but I can't because in the room is noise. But I'm trying to avoid working whole day with headphones because I don't want to stick with a bad idea and I want to help other team members.


Hi Rafal,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

I know exactly what you mean regarding the headphones. Indeed, it happens that people want to talk to me and I don't hear them. But they know what's going on. So they are waving their hands, send a short message via Slack or just call me several times. So the collaboration still works.

Apart from that, when I want to stay in the zone, I just keep my headphones on when someone from other departments is entering our office. You just do that a several times and they eventually learn what this means.

But, you are absolutely right, you don't have to listen to music all day long. So there's enough time to work together and help out each other.

It's just for the hours when you really want to get to work and try to not get distracted.

Take care,


Thanks Patrick,
this is exactly my setup too.

Kanbanflow for Pomodoros and a clear agenda, Headphones with nice music, some fresh air and water.


Great stuff. I rely on pomodoro like blocks too.

I also wrote an article on flow for programmers, check it out!

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