Doubling Productivity with Two+ Monitors

I believe I’ve doubled my productivity since I joined the two+ monitor club in 2012. 

A good number of tasks can be completed 100%+ faster with two monitors because these tasks require two or more primary windows, and two or more secondary windows. The last thing I want to do is use dressed up terminology, so let’s get these definitions out of the way:

Primary windows – stuff vital to completing “real” work for your job. In most corporate settings, these applications would be Powerpoint, Excel and Word. Re: information sources, I mean a browser window or PDF reader that has some useful information – if you’re in banking, company financials; technology, API documentation; government, a transcript of a Congressional hearing, etc.

Secondary windows – stuff that has to be monitored but isn’t the bread and butter of your job. E-mail and chat are the most obvious examples for me.

I believe the key to being productive with two monitors is centralizing primary windows and moving secondary windows away from the action. The main disadvantage of one monitor is that secondary windows have to be called front and center far too often – how annoying is it to get an Outlook or GMail notification and suddenly have your whole work space occupied by that reminder that there are still donuts in the breakroom? Like Brady reading a blitzing linebacker from his peripheral vantage point, two monitors allow you to sense potentially important distractions (the client wants a table in the presentation with their competitors’ TTM EBITDA) without losing site of the key action (that presentation due by EOD).

With this core concept in mind, I give you my unofficial guide to all the stuff I’ve learned since I joined the two monitor club in 2012:

Internalize your monitor gameplan – this will be the founding vision that guides all future monitor decisions. I have my setup below (excuse the third grade artwork) that is based on the whole centralizing primary and peripheralizing secondary premise:

monitorsFollow the law of 2s – most monitors can only house two windows split vertically. Thus, as shown above, if you have two monitors, it may make sense to divide your work space into four sections and go from there. I do use my left-most section to house up to three separate windows, mainly because email, chat and news don’t require a lot of space.

Move em with ease – Window managers like Spectacle for Mac give you shortcuts for easy splitting and moving. Even for single monitor workflows, I think Spectacle / any manager is useful (I used Spectacle before I had two monitors and use it now that I have two). Windows is actually built out with moving capabilities by default, and Win + <Arrow-Key> will accomplish a lot of the heavy lifting.

Know thy shortcuts – yes, yes, it’s old hat advice but not heeded enough. IMHO, Alt-Tab is really only the tip of the iceberg here. Since so much work is done in the browser nowadays, I think it’s worth knowing some Chrome shortcuts – specifically, moving to the search bar (Alt L), closing tabs (Alt W), opening tabs (Alt T), opening a new window (Alt N) and switching tabs (Cmd-Alt-<Arrow-Key> – note that you may have to customize some shortcuts if you’re on Mac and using the default Spectacle shortcuts, which conflict with Chrome).

So use your multiple monitors wisely. All space isn’t equal; prime real estate in the center should be primary windows, and far left / right is secondary stuff. Know the shortcuts. And that Matt Berry fantasy sleeper special can wait till after work.

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“I Should Get That” and FTB

My first year out of college I worked an investment banking job that had endless small responsibilities that were hard to keep track of. I got by with the classic TODO list on a notepad for a little, but felt annoyed by the endless copying over to the next page routine and looking at my own malformed scribbles.

As we so often do at work, I sometimes eyed my co-workers monitors out of curiosity and one day happened to see the other junior analyst on the desk using something that looked like Google Docs but with lots of strikethroughs and bulleted notes. He was hammering down keyboard shortcuts and moving stuff up and down the screen – it actually looked a little bit look programming now that I think of it. Anyways, I got a little closer and started looking over this analyst’s shoulders, and it became apparent he was using some TODO list app called Workflowy. I should get that.

Two years later, it’s all I use for TODO lists.

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A lot of the stuff I use on a regular basis – Chase Sapphire Preferred, Kindle Paperwhite, the DDPerks Card and Fitbit Flex, to name a few – are entirely the result of friends who had this stuff first and I just happened to see using. They never sold it to me or tried to use a referral link to rope me in. I saw them using something and asked about it. This idea always made sense to me – the best way to gauge product quality is to observe people actually using a product.

It’s not really kosher, however, to just mine friends’ brains for the stuff they like to use. It would take me hours to run through a list of products I like using, and I’d forget at least half of them in the process.

This area – this problem – is where I think fortheboys.club can add some value. Online directories have been a thing since the ARPANET – to me, sorting and filtering and curating stuff is what the web is really good at. There’s certainly stuff that already exists similar to FTB. I’m a regular reader of Esquire and Wired and understand how many resources are out there to help dudes 20-30 make good life decisions.

But is there anything directly to the point that just offers the 20 or 30 best must-haves? That updates on a regular basis to incorporate new information? Of that I’m not sure. Just through the process of doing this little side project, I’ve heard about some stuff I wish I had heard about years ago – Jack Threads and Heinz Sriracha Ketchup, to name two. Every little addition in this sense makes FTB worth existing and maintaining.

And I suppose the best possible reality here is one where enough people start contributing that a virtuous cycle of product recommendations forms. The newest and best deals push out the older ones, and you end up with a website that is an easy location for useful items for our demographic (and I also think that’s a key concept – I can only speak for what’s useful to a 25 year old male).

Last – I’ve been reading a lot about the cruft of Web 2.0 – the ad-everywhere era and the pages that take an additional 3 seconds to load because of every Network request under the sun to tracking and profiling your behavior. The sites I really like haven’t been immune to these issues. My hope is that FTB always is ad free, and the word “monetization” never enters our lexicon. This project is, after all, for the boys.

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If any of the above sounds compelling to you, please shoot me an email at fortheboysclub@gmail.com. The more on the pirate ship, the merrier.

Should the Boys Populate Mars?

I found myself in an interesting conversation with some of the boys yesterday about Mars.

Perhaps you’ve heard about a company called Mars One, a not for profit organization “with the goal of establishing a permanent human settlement on Mars”. More likely you’ve heard of SpaceX and its founder Elon Musk, who in a company-wide email stated SpaceX’s goal was to establish a human colony on Mars (per the fantastic new biography on Musk by Ashlee Vance). Maybe you’ve heard the term “terraforming”, a process by which humans seek to make other planets inhabitable.

This Mars colonization movement is gaining some buzz in the news, and the boys were split on whether this movement is “good” or “bad”. The argument was not dissimilar, said one of the boys, to a conversation between Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey in the 1997 movie Contact – that’s not it, but it’s very funny. Anyways, the two sides are captured in debate.org’s “Should humans attempt to colonize space?”:

YES:

Our resources are finite. Many sources for the raw goods we need lay currently just out of reach in near space. Geologic statistics already show that some of our resources will only be available through recycling within 40 years because all viable sources on earth will be depleted. For some of these we have likely already waited too late. Establishing a human presence off world is becoming imperative

NO:

Terraforming to livable levels on a planetary body (Mars) or moon level will not be realized before we make our own planet uninhabitable unless drastic lifestyle changes are embraced. Wake up people.

While both sides are equally valid, the fact remains that you can’t stop people from trying to establish a colony on Mars. Given improving technology and the rising interest in Mars colonization, I think there will be boys on Mars in my lifetime.

And if there is an opportunity, that means the boys have a chance to make history: be some of the first settlers on Mars. Do we seize the opportunity?

Another T-Shirt and Daily Deals Website

Yes; I know, I know. But we’re doing it For the Boys. FtB is a little side project that I hope will provide some fun and good times all around. If we can offer our friends some cool T-shirts and spiffy deals on useful products (read: things we use all the time), then let’s keep this baby going.