Thursday, January 16, 2014

How I doubled my workspace... on a smaller desk.

This is not hyperbole. I recently went from one computer monitor to two and it has changed my life.
Because I can flick between windows much faster, it has made working out of multiple documents much easier. Web content in particular is easier to sort out. I have told several people that I don’t think I could go back to having just one screen.

So why has this one simple change made an impact. Very simply it’s because desk-space isn’t workspace. Following two moves in rapid succession around our office, my desk space has shrunk. But I haven’t noticed, because, really, what work does anyone do on a desk anymore?

I can think of two things I do on the desk – if I do a phone interview and am writing notes, and if I print off a large document to proofread. Almost all my other work I do on my screen.
If I’m creating a new written piece I open a new Word doc. If I’m collating research and ideas, then I’m more likely to fire up Google than anything else. If I’m curating content, then I’m looking at on-screen material. If it’s online, then it’s on-screen and most of what I do is online or will end up there. Even documents that we print have an online life and it seems anything with an online life is on-screen work for the most part.
Culturally, we have moved from horizontal workspaces (the top of the desk) to vertical workspaces (the screens on desk-top PCs), but we still don’t think in those terms. I’ve realised that my screens are my workspace, and having an extra screen doubles the space I have to work in, despite having a smaller desk to put them on.
The next step is to add a third screen and see whether I gain the same amount of additional functionality again. I suspect the law of diminishing returns will come into play, with less benefit from each additional screen.
What would that upper limit be? Four screens? Six?  Could I build an in-office IMAX, or will I run out of desk to put the screens on first?

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