Get a Second Monitor to Increase Your Productivity and Save Time

December 10, 2010

A second monitor can help you get more done in less time. You can buy a second monitor for about $165 and set it up in 3 steps.

You might have seen one of these photos from the offices of Bill Gates or Al Gore and thought “That’s a lot of monitors! But who needs all those displays?”

Well, maybe you?

Adding a second monitor to your computer can increase your productivity and save you time. It’s an easy and affordable way to get more done in less time.

This article answers 4 questions about adding a second monitor to your computer or laptop:

  1. How much can your productivity increase?
  2. How much time can you save?
  3. How much does it cost?
  4. How do you set it up?

1. Your Productivity Can Increase by 30%

The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Slate have reported on research1 which shows that using a second monitor can boost productivity by 30 percent.

When you have 2 screens instead of 1 it takes you less time to complete such tasks as:

  • Cutting and pasting between cells in a spreadsheet.
  • Editing a document.
  • Moving files between folders.

Bill Gates shared how more screen space helps his productivity when he explained,

Once you have that large display area, you’ll never go back, because it has a direct impact on productivity.

2. You Can Save Time: From 1.3 Hours a Week to 2.5 Hours a Day

The above-mentioned research found that — depending on the tasks — users with a second monitor were able to save from 1.3 hours a week to 2.5 hours a day.

When you have 2 screens you don’t have to spend time on switching between windows during tasks such as:

  • Comparing 2 versions of a document at the same time.
  • Entering data from a document into a spreadsheet.
  • Looking at a spreadsheet for information while typing an email.

I’m saving time while writing this article by using 3 monitors: I’m typing on my middle monitor while referring to one document on my left screen and another document on my right screen.2 Here’s a screen shot of what I see across the 3 displays:

Do you ever need to type a document or email while looking at information from another program? With a second monitor, you can type on one screen while looking at the information on the other screen. No window switching is required!

3. You Can Add a Second Monitor For About $165

Whether you have a desktop or a laptop you can buy a second monitor to connect to it for as little as $165 for a 23″ monitor. I like buying monitors from Tiger Direct but I’ve also bought them from Dell and Wal-Mart.

The easiest way to buy a monitor is to go to Tiger Direct or another store that has a big selection of monitors on display. Then just pick one that you like.

When my girlfriend went shopping for a second monitor she became overwhelmed by the huge selection.

Ah, the paradox of choice. Don’t worry about making the perfect choice. Just choose one that you’ll be satisfied with.

4. You Can Add a Second Monitor in 3 Easy Steps

If you have a desktop:

1. Look at the back of your computer. Do you see a white DVI port or a blue VGA port that doesn’t have anything plugged into it?

Plug the monitor into a DVI or VGA port.

2. If you see a DVI or VGA input that isn’t in use then you can plug a second monitor into it. (DVI is better than VGA.)

3. If you don’t have a free port, no problem. You can connect a second monitor by using a USB to VGA/DVI adapter:

Plug the USB end of the adapter into your computer. Then plug the VGA or DVI end into your monitor.

It can be hard to find one of these in stores but you can buy a USB to VGA/DVI adapter on Ebay for about $20.

If you have a laptop, just follow the same steps above.

Getting a Second Monitor is Like Getting a Bigger Desk

At first, the idea of using a second monitor seems a bit weird.

But if you’ve ever had to sort a lot of paperwork, you know how nice it is to have a big desk that allows you to spread out your documents.

Getting a second monitor is like getting a bigger desk: it’s nice to be able to spread out your digital documents.

Adding a second monitor can increase your productivity and save you precious time. And if you get a second display, there’s a good chance that you’ll really like it.

As one researcher at Microsoft discovered,

Give someone a second monitor, let them use it for awhile, and then try to take it away. It just isn’t going to happen.

What about you? Do you think it’s worth getting a second monitor?

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  1. Here is a summary of 4 Studies which Show that Using a Second Monitor Can Boost Productivity []
  2. The document on the left is a guide to making presentations but some of its tips are helpful to me while I’m writing this blog post, too. The document on the right is a Hewlett-Packard guide on using multi-monitors. []

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Dan Dascalescu December 17, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Interesting point about increasing productivity by using a second monitor; that is, if you don’t have IM, feed updates and other interruptions on it. Various studies claim that information workers waste 28% of their due to interruptions, and interruptions can lower IQ by 10 points, twice as much as marijuana.

Anyway, about a year ago I posted an extended comparison and review of about 50 monitors. The winner was the NEC MultiSync LCD2490WUXi, which I’ve been using ever since.

Another piece of advice: don’t just in the monitor in any VGA or DVI port. The quality of a DVI connection is way better than that of VGA. DVI is crystal clear, while VGA is fuzzy.


Kevin Kane December 17, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Dan, you’re right about avoiding interruptions. I work on a single task at a time. If there’s something on one of my extra screens that is distracting me while working on a single task, then I just minimize the distracting window.

For example, while replying to your comment right now, in my second screen I have your website and in the third screen I have a Word document — but neither of those are distracting me from writing this message.

You’re right of course about DVI: I edited the post to encourage people to use DVI if they have it.

Thanks for sharing your tips!


Natalie Besner January 2, 2011 at 11:37 pm

Hi Kevin,

Not too long ago I added a second Samsung monitor to my home office and I must say it made a huge difference. I am now using FL Studio in one screen while I am watching tutorials on the other. Moving from one screen to the next is often easier than using multiple applications on one screen.

The only drawback that I can think of is the lack of desk space…other then that…this is a perfect solution for anyone who wants to save time.


Kevin Kane January 3, 2011 at 6:43 pm

Hi Natalie,

To get your desk space back, you might want to Mount your Computer Monitors to Save Desk Space.

You might like this music mixer’s office that has 3 displays.


Kevin Kane February 23, 2011 at 2:00 pm

4 Reasons Why You Need a Dual Screen Monitor Setup — a persuasive article by J.J. Lancer.


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