Ivan Berger, of the New York Times, writes that you can increase your productivity by 20% to 30%, simply by adding an additional monitor. I've been using multiple monitors at my think space for the past 8 years and this has certainly been my experience. Steve Richards recently blogged about how he and Bill Gates work in a similar way. While Steve and Bill are dissimilar in compensation, they, like the New York Times, get the value of multiple displays as an extreme productivity tool. (See photos below)

This topic has come up a lot lately in various forums, including the Getting Things Done forum, the MindManager forum, [Both on Yahoo] and several blog sites. [Update: James Kendrick has just blogged on this topic, too.] For some time, I've blogged about the best external monitor for Tablet PC mind mapping. Microsoft has done extensive research on this topic and concluded that two screens are better than one. In 2005, Pfeiffer Consulting published their research report: Apple Cinema HD Display Productivity Benchmark. Bottom line: a bigger display area can help you get more done.

I don't have the time to write a lengthy narrative, however, I thought I would share a few photos of various incarnations of my think space.

Here's my current desktop:

20060320 - Think Station w Tablet and Dell Wide Screen.jpg
Tecra M4 Tablet PC, Dell 24" Wide Screen Display, IBM TrackPoint Keyboard

Here's what the office looks like when I'm Mind Mapping for results
20040725 - Mind Mapping in the office.jpg

Here's what my think station used to look like.
20020201 - Eric's Think Station circa 2002.jpg

And here's my dream display configuration.
Eric's dream multiple monitor display for his office.jpg

But I would gladly settle for one of these...

What is your experience with multiple displays? have you find an ideal configuration that works for you? I'd like to hear about it.

Discussion/Comments (9):

Multiple displays boost productivity 20% to 30%

I have used multiple monitors for years - couldn't agree with you more about productivity. I currently use a Fujitsu T4020D tablet with a 21" gateway at home and a 23" Apple display at work, and love the setups. I have a question for you - what type of stand do you use to incline your tablet for easier writing? I use a doc station but cannot get a good writing angle.

Posted at 04/22/2006 6:51:52 by Ron Robison

re: Multiple displays boost productivity 20% to 30%

Ron, the stand that you see in the photo is a custom stand that I designed for my Tecra M4. It holds the Tablet in its dock at a convenient angle for writing in slate mode, yet is still usable in laptop mode. I build the stand out of wood (a cedar fence board, to be precise) in about a half an hour. I covered the edges with stick-on felt so that it would not mar the desk or the tablet. The hardest part was deciding on the angles that I wanted to use and the determining how to support the docking station. It works well. This solution allows me to use my tablet as a tablet and still use my extenal monitor.


PS. I looked over your web site. Interesting stuff re: personal coaching. Bookmarked.

Posted at 04/22/2006 21:19:00 by Eric Mack

re: Multiple displays boost productivity 20% to 30%

I would agree as well. I use two 19" at work flanked by a TC1000 tablet. By running Synergy, my set-up allows the use of all three monitors. At home I use a single 30" Dell. I must say that I "feel" more productive at the twin 19's due to the segregation of space.

For those considering such a set up it is not that expensive or hard to set up. Windows 2000+ will do most all the work for you.

Posted at 04/24/2006 4:29:17 by Chris Dalton

Multiple displays boost productivity 20% to 30%


I have a single 21" flat screen at work and two 19" screens with the desktop at home. Also the laptop screen and a 17" second monitor for that station at home.

People at work are envious of my large screen. I tell them that I love my two screens - it gets the windows where you need them to do the right effort at the right time instead of searching for them buried behind stuff on a single screen. That's what makes it more productive from a 'getting things done' viewpoint.

Obviously, more screens are better if you need to consistently monitor some function. But in terms of concentration, two is better than one by a long shot.


Posted at 04/24/2006 12:17:39 by Scot Herrick

Multiple displays boost productivity 20% to 30%

Steve Richards blogged some more about his multi-display desktop. Nice write-up.

{ Link }

Posted at 04/28/2006 11:07:29 by Eric Mack

Multiple displays boost productivity 20% to 30%

Hi, Eric; the proposition instinctively seems right to me, tho I can't say I have done it, at work, yet.

But here's a couple of points that I think belong with your proposition.

Best give you the context I am from - attorney - dealing with text base documents - accepting that, whatever I may want, attornies are going to be stuck with paper files for a good time yet*.

I accept that what I am about to say may be law office focused, where we deal with text, - wordprocessor and email - but almost no graphics and very few numbers.

1. I love the way my TC1100 lets me read and write in portrait mode. If I had bigger displays, I would, all things being equal, like to see more space for text down the page than accross.

No reason to think other professions share this need.

But let's not forget those swivel displays that were available but don't seem to easy to find.

2. I'm heading off topic, Eric, but, man, do I resent having to get off my butt, so many times a day to walk to a printer, to get all that paper my profession can't give up, yet.

Why are IS departments allowed to nickle and dime (over the life of printers) giving users what they need, at a cost (which a time and motion guy from a 50s auto plant would see from the get go) of diminished productivity for the user by having to walk from the desk some distance, so many times a day?

3. And while I'm venting, why can't my secretary and I have multifunction laser printers, so if either of us has to copy an incoming document to go out with a letter to someone, we don't have to walk to the copier. Hec, we might even learn to scan to PDF this incoming document and email the letter I wrote, and what would be stapled to it, to the addressee?

I'm not expecting a slick answer from you, but I hope you can give me a nod of acknowledgement.



London, England

* Attorneys who go to court are unlikely to give up paper for years, I'd say. We need to be able to pick up a bundle and run to court.

Posted at 04/30/2006 14:42:22 by Will

Multiple displays boost productivity 20% to 30%

One can only drool at the prospects of something like this... { Link }

Posted at 05/02/2006 14:54:32 by Kurt Andersen

Multiple displays boost productivity 20% to 30%

Hello Eric,

I too use multiple monitors here at work and at home. In my office I use a Matrox Quad board on my EVC Asus Windows XP Pro machine with four monitors. I have two 19" Samsung LCD DVI monitors and two 19" Princton LCD Analog Monitors. I have Outlook running on one all of the time, the two analog monitors are running Window Vision Remote to view 16 cameras and my primary display gets used for what ever I am working on at the time.

Posted at 05/03/2006 12:16:11 by Bruce Kreeger

Multiple displays boost productivity 20% to 30%

I have yet to pull the trigger on the multiple monitoe setup of my dreams. I saw this on a blog and thought you guys would enjoy a nice warm 8 million pixel bath.

{ Link }

Posted at 04/06/2007 15:28:45 by Kyle Jacobson

Multiple displays boost productivity 20% to 30%

Eric, this is an oldie but a goodie!

Do you have any photos of your current workspace?

Posted at 10/22/2010 13:29:12 by Kevin Kane

Discussion for this entry is now closed.