We’ve all seen some variation of the multiple monitor setup. In fact, you might have your own two or even three headed monster of a desktop setup back home. With today’s collaborative business environment and an app for almost every task imaginable, it’s easy to see why the multiple monitor setup has taken off.
We need more screen, because more is available to us. There’s more communication streams, more apps and more information. However, more screen may not necessarily translate to increased productivity.
The Solo case
Cory House, a Pluralsight author, software architect and speaker among many other titles, agrees. In his “Single Monitor Manifesto,” House makes a case against the multiple monitor setup.
His main argument boils down to one belief, less may sometimes mean more.
First of all, it’s easy to be critical of House and dismiss his claims assuming that he has a simple job, free of the complexities of business. However, I’d argue that being a software architect and author gives House even more reason to benefit from a multiple screen setup. In fact, House had his own multiple monitor setup, but sold it a few years ago.
His reasons for abandoning the setup are simple, increased focus and simplicity.
House writes, “If my email or social media feeds are available at a glance, then I’ll check them constantly. This isn’t just unnecessary, it’s counter-productive. In a world of endless distractions, being able to focus on a single task for an extended period is a seriously valuable skill.” Emails and social media feeds are just some distractions that multiple displays make more likely.
Yes, both may be necessary for work, but more often than not they add nothing to inform our current task.
Instead they prevent us from what famed author, Cal Newport, calls “deep work.”
“Deep work is becoming increasingly hard in our distraction filled economy, yet also becoming increasingly important and rare. The few who can spend their days on deep work will become extremely marketable and successful,” says Newport in his book, Deep Work.
Distracted before you even begin
Multiple monitor setups can also lead to a complex set of configurations. Managing these configurations could end up being a distraction in itself. House describes his own conundrum in running multiple monitors.
“I ran a 34″ LG ultra-widescreen monitor for a month. At first, I loved it. But after a few days, I was surprised to find my opinion soured. It was far too wide to maximize my windows, so I found myself spending too much time fiddling with windows. What should I put on the left today? What’s important enough to be in the middle now?”
The solution, instead of fiddling with multiple windows across multiple screens, why not decide ahead of time what’s most important. Display that information or task front and center, then move on to the next point of focus.
One screen and one focus is an old school approach to productivity. However, in a time when workers are constantly feeling burned out and wantrepreneurs jet from one idea to another, perhaps going back to this old school approach can bring us to a new level of productivity.