Skip to content

a manifesto in favor of having a single monitor

26 mayo, 2021

Many programmers find that having multiple monitors increases productivity and there are even studies that prove it … but in reality many of those studies have been commissioned by monitor manufacturers such as Dell or NEC.

I do not care that having many monitors makes me look like a cool hacker, a few years ago I decided to sell the monitors that I had left over and I went on to have only one screen. And I am not the only one.

These are my reasons.

Concentration

Human beings can only focus on one thing at the same time. Why spend money just to show us several things at the same time? If I have my mail and social networks in view at all times, I will not stop distracting myself. In a world where distractions are constant, being able to focus on a single task for a long period of time is a very valuable ability.

Each time we work in a less deep way due to the large number of distractions to which we are exposed, that is why it is increasingly important to work in depth. Those few who can take advantage of the days working in depth will be the ones who end up being successful. – Cal Newport in “Deep Work”

Having a single monitor means that what I am working on (and only what I am working on) is what is shown in front of my eyes and in a centered way. If distractions are out of sight, they are not a problem.

Full Monitors

Can anyone focus on just one thing in a place like this?

Reading and writing are two of the things we do every day that require our full concentration. for a long period of time. If it is the only thing that appears on the screen, we will be able to read and write better. A book with Twitter continually updating on the sidelines would be a disaster, but there are still people who work in a similar way. Many times having multiple screens just means more distractions and you’re much more likely to focus on what to do if email and social media are out of sight.

I am a programmer and I write code daily, so many times I have to read documents. However, I rarely need to have the documents in view while I am writing the code. First I read the relevant document and then I get down to the code – my workflow follows different steps.

Less window management

I started using a 34 ”LG widescreen monitor for a month and loved it.

However, after several days of use I began to change my mind: the monitor was too wide to maximize the windows and in the end I always ended up wasting time adjusting them. “What window do I put on the left today?” “Which window is the most important and the one I should put in the middle?”

Okay, the screen was wide enough to show several windows along the length, but the things that were on the sides were too far away and I kept putting what I was doing in the center, making all the sense of having such a large screen . Jeff Atwood already explained this problem a long time ago in “The paradox of the big screen” and his solution was to use a program to make it easier to move and resize the windows. What I prefer is to use a monitor that has a more reasonable size.

Even using some program to manage the windows, the use of several monitors presents a problem: if I have two monitors, the content is not directly in front of me, but is to the right or to the left (something that is very annoying if you are working on a treadmill desk). Another option is to put one monitor in the middle and the other to the side, but the second monitor will be too far away and in the background, so I always end up putting what I need at that moment on the center screen.

“Having options has not made us freer, but rather paralyzes us; It has not made us happier, but more dissatisfied ”.

As Barry Schwartz writes in “The Paradox of Choosing,” there is fatigue from having to make decisions constantly and often less is more.

With a single screen I have to make fewer decisions and I don’t waste time deciding where to put the windows or dragging them. I simply maximize the application or program I am using and forget about other distractions so I can work without wasting time.

The best are virtual desktops

Both Mac and Windows support virtual desktops. On my Mac, I can easily switch virtual desktop, which takes less than a second and I don’t have to turn my head and adjust my view elsewhere. I don’t waste much time on virtual desktops either: on the far left is the browser and on the right is the editor. For me, virtual desktops are like physical screens that represent the same content.

Multi Window The three boxes at the top represent three virtual desktops. A simple keyboard shortcut is enough to swap them and it doesn’t take any longer than it would take to look at another monitor.

By the way, if you’re using a Mac, make sure to disable the auto-reset option.

The same method of working outside the home

Sometimes I work outside the home: in coffee shops, libraries, parks, airplanes, etc. I take my 15 ”MacBook Pro (review) with me everywhere, and since I’m used to working with a single screen at home, I can work the same way when I’m away thanks to virtual desktops.

Remote Display Last week I was able to work from the beach without having to change the way I work

When I had multiple monitors, I had to rearrange my windows every time I turned on the computer, and now with virtual desktops the windows stay in place every time I go to work. It’s as if you have an unlimited number of virtual monitors that are always organized the same way, wherever you work.

My preferred monitor to work productively

I prefer to use a 24 ”4K monitor because, if what you are looking for is productivity, in this case more size does not have to be better. A 24-inch screen is big enough to display two applications at the same time if necessary (I use BetterTouchTool on Mac and Win + arrow is enough on Windows). In turn, a 24 “monitor is small enough to maximize all applications without having to move your head or eyes a lot to reach the margins of the screen. Remember to maximize everything. Maximize = concentration.

This is my current desktop:

Walking desk Dell 2415q with an Ergotron monitor arm. Walking on a treadmill helps me focus, keeps me fit, and helps me stay awake during the day. I no longer have a problem with falling asleep if the chair is very comfortable and I can remove the tape if I am very tired and need to sit down.

Why 4k? The higher the resolution, the less fatigue. The text is much sharper and the prices are already reasonable, so if you don’t have a high-resolution monitor, get one. A 24 ”4K monitor has more dots per inch than larger 4K displays, hence its sharpness. All the MacBook Pros that have come out in the last few years have 4K 60hz output via DisplayPort and many recent Windows laptops as well.

“Too much of anything turns into the opposite.” (Tim Ferriss)

Why do many workers insist on using multiple monitors? I think it’s about the illogical attraction to extremes.

Too much screen is nothing more than a distraction and for me what really matters is:

Original post written by Cory House: Pluralsight Author, Principal at reactjsconsulting.com, Software Architect, Microsoft MVP, Speaker, Clean Coder, Aspiring Outlier.