Using Two Computer Displays: Does It Make You a More Productive Solopreneur?

Two years ago I decided that I wanted my business computer to be a laptop. My reasons were: I didn’t want to be tied to my home office and my desktop computer anymore; I wanted to have my business computer with me while traveling; and I wanted to be able to work at night in the den of our house, in my favorite chair.

I bought a Macbook for my solo business, and I bought the 13-incher because I liked (and still like) the portability of it. But I foresaw one problem: I’d go bonkers if I had to work at that tiny screen all day! So I bought a second display.

I think I’m like most people: I love having two displays! I can’t imagine working without two displays. For example, as I write this column I have my text editor on my big screen, and my second screen is displaying my Safari window, which I am using to refer to I articles I am citing. Not having the second screen would annoy me. The annoyance would make my back hurt. And a sore back would have forced me to stop working two hours ago.

So I’ve taken it as fact that my productivity has increased with the two monitors (and hey, 2008 and 2009 are my two best years for revenue!), but this week I was pondering whether my productivity belief was true. I did some digging and the consensus seems to be:

• The experts disagree about whether (or how much) two displays increase productivity.

• The experts agree that if having two displays makes you a happier worker, then you should have two monitors— or three monitors!

Increase Your Productivity by 50 percent?
An oft-cited bit of research conducted in 2003 by Microsoft says dual monitors can increase productivity by 9 to 50 percent. One of the researchers, Gary Starkweather, who also invented the laser printer (cool!), enjoyed telling colleagues that the average display size is not much bigger than an 8-by-11 sheet of paper. He would ask, “What if I took away your desk, and gave you one that was only 8-by-11? How easy would it be for you to work?”

Gary makes a great point, and I can’t argue with it.

But people have questioned the Microsoft study, including Patrick Dubroy, a blogger who writes about computer programming. Patrick studied the data and concluded that average productivity gains across all industries are more like 2.5 percent:

I think it’s fair to say that some tasks can be made significantly faster if you have more screen real estate. On the other hand, I think it’s clear that most programmers are not going to be 50 percent more productive over the course of a day just by getting a second monitor. But if you just can’t live without your dual- or triple-monitor setup, fine! I definitely agree that it can be nice sometimes.

That’s what I say, too! Two monitors make me happy, and it should be whistle while you work, right?

Do you use one display or two for your solo business?
Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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Hi, I'm Gregory Rouse, owner of The Solopreneur Life. Subscribe to The Solopreneur Life newsletter and receive how-to's, tips, and inspiration for living your solopreneur life.


  1. Derek peterson says

    I have two monitors for my mac, and have allowed my former staff members to have two and three monitors and then trained them how to use them. I know that productivity went up. The cost/benefit was obvious. A second monitor was about $400 back then, for an employee earning 50K. A nice return. Today I covet a 30 mac monitor. As the price deposed, I get closer to purchase.

    Two monitors are almost essential for graphics and desktop publishing work.

    And, there are really two essential interfaces with my machine – the keyboard and visual display. I have tried many, through the years to find the best fit. It is always essential to sharpen our tools.

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