Dual-monitor envy is common and understandable.
You’ve seen your buddy sitting there looking like an air-traffic controller — vast fields of spreadsheets that look to contain all the world’s information.
Plus: two monitors. Two is better than one, right?
But it may not be the case that you’ll get better work results with dual monitors, either in terms of quality or quantity.
Here are some issues with dual monitors, as well as a discussion of the differences between dual and single monitors.
The Too Much Factor
The way most people use dual monitors for work is to have one big desktop. When you drag, say, a Word document to the far edge of the right-hand monitor, it just stays there, rather than appearing on both monitors at the same time.
This allows for many different applications to be open at once, none of them partially covering the other. The intrepid bookkeeper, writer, graphic designer or entrepreneur then plucks information from each window, synthesizing it as needed.
The only problem with this approach is that having too much information to sift through doesn’t necessarily increase speed. Is it necessarily better to swivel your head back and forth to locate the right spreadsheet? Or would it be more effective to have it sitting down in your tray? You know where it is and can open it when you need it.
The Multi-Task Morass
If you’re using two monitors, say, to create a report, having research over here and your Word document over there, that’s one thing.
But if you’re using it to chat with a client while doing some invoices on the side when your chat partner takes too long to respond, with some job searching thrown in (insert endless combos here) your results may suffer.
With your attention thus divided, are you giving thoughtful replies to your client? Are you invoicing correctly? The evidence that incriminates multi-tasking is substantial.
Without a doubt, dual monitors give you what looks like a monstrous field for monster work. But a lot of the hype about dual monitors came out several years ago when monitors were quite a bit smaller. The way to get working space was the magic of addition.
Now, though, monitors are pretty wide, particularly with laptops. And if you want to go out and buy a wide monitor, they’re in the store waiting, and they’re not terribly expensive these days.
Having your info on one big ole monitor means not having to ask yourself which monitor which document is on, not breaking your neck with swiveling, etc. And IT writer Wallace Chu makes the shrewd observation that “a 1440p monitor offers more real estate than two 720p monitors.”
So, yes, it can be good to have multiple windows open at once if that suits your working style. But that doesn’t mean that two monitors is the way to get there.
Also, if people find out you have dual monitors, they’ll expect you to do twice the work. Ask around some, and if you decide dual monitors are the way to go for you, then go for it. But don’t allow yourself to get sucked into the hype that says they increase productivity.