Several people talk about how having multiple screens makes us more productive. But does it, really?
It’s not the number of screens that matters; it’s how you use them!
Let’s take my current setup as an example:
Those three active screens are the ones I use when doing most of my focused work. Let’s say this is how I use those screens:
Hey, we can see a Pomodoro Timer at the top-left on that picture, so this MUST be a very productive setup, right? I’m afraid not. Consider my current focus is software development work. Let me walk you through the points I’m indicating on the picture:
1. Dead space. Unused real estate. If I’m on my focused time, I should probably not be seeing my exciting track photos, which change every 20 minutes; maybe a solid color would help keep my focus;
2. An email client. My current focus is NOT “email processing”, I shouldn’t keep the distracting email client open like that;
3. A messaging app taking up an entire monitor. Does that conversation pertain to the current task I’m focusing on? If not, then this app should not be there;
4. That is the browser window showing me the software I’m building. That’s the result of my focused work. It can benefit from a little more real estate, no? To add insult to the injury, maybe I’d even have the developer tools open, all squished, docked inside that same window!
5. The IDE. The thing where I produce the result of my current task. The code I’m working on cannot be seen without scrolling horizontally!
So, do the multiple screens make me more productive if used that way? Most certainly not.
Here’s a better setup I believe makes me more productive:
Let me walk you through it:
1. My Pomodoro Timer. Time-boxed task. The time I have left helps me stay focused;
2. A place to drop in notes, screenshots, links, etc., related to the task I’m working on;
3. Any research or supporting material I’m currently using. In that browser window, I make sure to only have tabs related to the task at hand;
4. My IDE. That’s the screen I’m looking at most of the time, so it has to feel comfortable, relaxing, easy on the eyes (not a lot of information or things other than the current code I’m working on);
5. The software that I’m building, which is the result of the code in #4;
6. The Developer Tools (console, debugger, etc.);
7. The terminal (console) window, so I can quickly see if my current changes have broken my local build (also supported by what I may see on #6).
As it has been document on the internets since 2007, I am very specific about how I organize windows and multiple screens. I organize them based on the focused task at hand and I’m always looking for A) better ways to organize it, B) processes and tools to make it easier.
I’ve just heard about the FancyZones in the Windows 10 Power Toys this morning, and I’ll be looking into adding that to my toolbox as well.