January 16, 2009

Want to Be More Productive at Work? Get a Second Computer Screen

Need to be more productive at work?

According to Farhad Manjoo, writing in The New York Times, you might want to convince your boss to buy you a second monitor for your desktop computer.

Manjoo writes that, in a recent study commissioned by the electronics company NEC, researchers at the University of Utah found that office workers who used two 20-inch monitors were 44% more productive at certain text-editing operations than people using a single 18-inch monitor.

The author, who tried the experiment himself, writes:

“As every office worker knows, trying to get anything done on a computer that’s connected to the Internet can be a test of wills. On my old desktop monitor… the Web was a wormhole that routinely pulled me off track. I’d switch over to a browser window to look something up, but as soon as I did so all traces of my work would disappear from the screen and I’d forget about the task at hand. A half hour later, I’d wake up from a deep browsing trance, wondering how I ever got to, say, a page recounting the history of Adidas, or some other topic having nothing at all to do with my work.

A huge desktop didn’t remove all distractions, but it blunted their force. Now I could keep my e-mail and the Web open on one screen while my Microsoft Word document ran on another. This kept me on task. Even if I did go off to the Web, my document was always visible, beckoning me to come back to work.”

But it is not just reducing distractions that improve productively. The author cites the ease of cutting and pasting – a common computer task – when you are working with two monitors. In addition, not needing to have your eyes readjust to different screens as you toggle back and forth on one monitor also improves your productivity, and decreases your eye strain and fatigue.

Now all I need is a bigger – or less cluttered – desk.

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