Dual monitor productivity tips – 5 ways to make the most out of multiple monitors

by Miles Warren

Some swear that two screens are better than one, while others say that the extra screen is a distraction in and of itself.

If your mind starts to wander during the average workday, you’re certainly not alone. Staying on task, especially in today’s productivity minefield definitely isn’t easy.

But, maybe getting on task

In reality, you’re just switching between tabs over and over, searching for that one link you need to paste into another document.

The dual-screen approach, though nothing new, is a productivity method that some say, could increase your output by up to 50%. There’s no need to toggle back and forth between tabs and it might even lead to fewer errors.

Why use multiple monitors anyway?

Well, multiple monitors mean more room, without having to commit to a big-screen solution.

And, for those who keep a million tabs going at any given moment, the set up can bring a sense of digital clarity that you just won’t get from your single laptop screen.

Below, we’ve included some suggestions that will help you make the most out of your dual-screen approach.

1. Streamline your screenshotting game

If you’re a content creator of any kind, chances are you’ll need to do some light editing here and some screen-shotting there.

We know what a pain this stuff can be on a laptop, where you’re dragging, clicking and losing your place over and over.

2. Reduce errors with a side-by-side comparison

If you’re pulling numbers from one documents, you’re switching back and forth, over and over. Did you forget what you just looked at? Well, that just means you’re clicking between tabs—wasting time and increasing the likelihood of an error.

Whether you’re trying to put together a spreadsheet on your laptop or testing code, a separate screen can help you spot errors as you work.

3. Improve your workflow

Researchers at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute found that a cluttered work environment makes it more difficult to focus.

Use the multi-screen system to set up a workflow that works for you. Part of this means keeping one screen available for organizing your thoughts and to-dos on a clutter-free backdrop.

Set your screens up so that your eyes go from left to right—think reference materials and to-dos on the left side, and one task at a time on the right.

A couple of options here— one is pretty informal. Plan out your day’s worth of to-dos and organize your tabs accordingly.

Or, if you’re trying to work out a top-level view of a big project, you can use dual screens to create a Kanban (or Trello-style) board that maps out your process.

4. Use one screen for source material

Whether you’re writing a research paper or drafting a blog post, you’re probably looking up information as you get your work done.

Whatever you’re trying to accomplish, any task that requires you to look up source material has a whole bunch of clicking around between tabs built into the process.

It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but that separation between your workspace and its associated source material is a huge game changer.

This New York Times article from 2006 states that working off two screens can increase your productivity by up to 30%. In it, the writer mentions they wrote the article by writing on one screen, with the outline and source material on the other.

5. Segment your work tasks

Make like Bill Gates and use one screen to collect incoming information and the other (or other two, in Gates’ case) to work on tasks. Use one screen to keep an eye on information, emails, alerts, and so on.

You need to commit to productivity

James A. Anderson, the professor from the University of Utah who led the 2008 productivity study says that whether multiple monitors will make you more productive depends on the type of work you do.

So, if you don’t really need more than one screen, an extra monitor won’t help much. This set up is ideal for people who need to toggle between two sets of information—coders, designers, writers, etc.

Dual monitors present an effective way to increase your productivity, by giving you a little more breathing room for spreading out your work.

Still, that means there’s twice the amount of space for distractions.

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