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How 3 Displays will Increase Your Productivity

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Three displays
For several months now, I have been working in my home office with three monitors. For a very long time, I was working on a Windows XP machine that was optimized for BioShock, on a single flat panel monitor. When I had read about the productivity benefits of working with three displays (in Cameron Herold’s book Double Double: How to Double Your Revenue and Profit in 3 Years or Less), I decided it was something I wanted to try.

I soon found out that getting three monitors to work on a XP machine was akin to magic. My computer simply did not have the power to support the additional displays, and I could not get it to work.

So, it was time to upgrade my machine. At first, I just put in a new graphics card, but that didn’t solve the issue either. Ultimately, I ended up having to replace all of the components in my desktop except for the optical drive and the hard drives.

After upgrading my machine and installing a new OS, at long last, I got my three monitors configured, and I was off to the races.

Though there are a variety of different ways in which you could become more productive, here are several areas where multiple monitors will boost your overall efficiency.

Research and Reference

If you are a blogger or writer working on a single display, you are probably rotating between your word processor, your browser, and other applications (like Photoshop) frequently. Writing usually requires some research, and in my experience research is often interwoven into the writing process.

The good news is that you can significantly cut down on the time you spend switching between applications by utilizing multiple screens. You can have a browser window open in one screen while writing in another.

Likewise, you can view your Google Drive documents, account information, specifications, and other important information on one screen with your word processor open in another. Whenever you need to review data, you don’t have to minimize your current window to view the other.

Social Media and Marketing

If you are a marketer, chances are good that you utilize social media to get your message out. It is quite likely that you have to reference information in other windows while posting to different sites too.

Again, this can be a bit of a painstaking process of copying from one document, referencing hashtags in another tab, posting in a separate application, and so forth. With multiple screens, you can have all of this information collated and completely visible without having to open, close, and minimize several folders or windows.

I’m sure you are starting to get the point, but if your work requires you to regularly reference anything on your computer, you can save time by using two or three screens.

Programming and Development

In addition to writing and marketing, I also find myself coding from time to time. I don’t generally do anything too intensive, but I have come to accept that HTML, CSS, PHP and a bit of MySQL are par for the course as a website owner.

What do you do if you’re not sure how to do something? If a piece of your code is malfunctioning, and you’ve tried everything you can think of to repair it, where do you go next? Of course, you open a browser window and Google it.

This can end up being a fairly intensive back-and-forth process of trying one thing, seeking for other solutions, iterating the code, testing the code, looking for other possible answers, and so on. If you are using a single screen, of course, this can take a lot of time. Multiple screens can save a lot of personal bandwidth by enabling you to focus on the problem instead of going back and forth trying to understand the problem and solution others have outlined.

Conclusion

Fundamentally, there are a variety of different situations in which three monitors can really speed up your workflow. Conversely, if you’re not careful, it can also slow you down.

Because of the newfound retail space available to you, you may end up opening more applications, tabs and windows than you did before, thus cluttering up your screens. The best practice is still to work on a single task until it is completed, and close the windows or applications you don’t need any more before moving on to the next thing.

Ultimately, however, programmers, developers, marketers and bloggers could all become more productive by using more displays.

Comments

Mar 26, 2014 10:13pm
nazrahim
Highly interesting proposition for using 3 displays! At the same time you remembered to caution against the possible counter-productive effect if not used properly. I'd love to see a little more detail on how you actually configured your single computer to drive 3 displays. Good effort!
Mar 26, 2014 10:41pm
arcticsunburn
Thanks, nazrahim!

For starters, I am using the GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST GPU, which does accommodate three displays.

I actually have three different monitors, because I wanted to do this on the cheap: a VisionQuest, a Samsung and an HP. Incidentally, I like the HP monitor the best though I thought I would lean towards the Samsung.

One monitor is connected with a VGA cable converted to DVI. The second one is connected directly via HDMI. The last one uses an HDMI cable converted to display port. A little unusual, and a bit costly, admittedly, but if you plan in advance you'll spare yourself some trouble. :)

I am also on Windows 8.1 now. There wasn't really much setup involved besides tweaking the "Screen Resolution" settings to arrange the monitors and modify behavior.

Hope that helps!
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