In an increasingly information-driven world, many industries are using multiple monitor displays (or multi-displays) to increase worker productivity. In fact, some engineers have been using multi-displays since they first came out. The only things that stopped the rest of the world from following suit were the limits of graphics card technology and the cost of the equipment (including the extra monitor).
A Desk with a View
Today, though, most computers and graphics cards are built to handle that kind of strain, and can easily support at least two displays. Myself, I’ve got a mid-end 14” laptop hooked up to a 23” monitor that I use as the primary display.
This setup is great for me because I often have to refer to transfer information between separate spreadsheets and MS Access; and even when I’m writing I often have to switch refer to different documents, my editorial calendar, and whatnot.
I could, of course, just minimize windows and scrunch them together onto one desktop, but that would require a lot of fiddling to get the sizes exactly right, and I don’t have that kind of time. Not to mention that the views are would either be too tiny or incomplete.
When I have to work elsewhere I can always unplug the laptop for some mobility, but I don’t do it often, because it feels like I’ve just lost a limb or an eye. I fumble between screens, alt-tabbing and minimizing far more than I’m used to, and with the number of windows I have open it’s really easy to switch to the wrong one—more precious seconds lost. Reports than only take me ten minutes to generate now take me half an hour—triple my normal time!
Why is the loss of a monitor such a big factor in my productivity? And I’ve got only two monitors. Have about those with three? Or six?
It’s More than Multi-tasking
Studies have shown that multi-tasking is actually hampers productivity, because you can’t focus on one task. But having a multi-display setup isn’t multi-tasking. On the contrary, I think multi-displays help you perform on a single task better.
It’s the difference between working on a writing desk and working on a foot stool. Digital real estate helps you arrange information and programs exactly the way you want, so that you can quickly refer to, extract, and input information without having to switch between a dozen windows. Yes, you can still be productive with just one monitor (and people used to work just fine back then), but in our industry we need to be able to work quickly and efficiently.
The budget-conscious might argue that the additional equipment costs way too much, but I feel that the amount of productivity you get out of it is more than worth the investment.
How about you? Do you find multi-displays more efficient?
Image credit, Flickr, Sean MacEntee