A second screen next to a first. The background image is of mountains.

Why Not Having A Second Screen Is Key For My Productivity

The unintended consequences of another monitor.

I think a lot about unintended consequences. The idea that you do something seemingly positive to only end up with a future negative result.

For example, consider when you moved out of your parents’ home and into your first apartment. Images probably come to mind of:

  • Old carpet,
  • A broken A/C system,
  • And probably a cockroach or two.

It’s character building, right? And as you grow and level up your housing, you can reflect back and know that no matter what, if things go sour, you can always return to that hovel with the confidence that things will be just fine.

That you can make it work.

You obviously don’t want to go back, but you’re resourceful and know that you can manage any situation, regardless of the obstacle before you.


Your royal palace

But now imagine that your first place isn’t worn-down. There are no bugs in sight and your A/C runs icy cold year-round. You’re not in a dingy apartment either. You’re in a mansion.

Fully stocked with exquisite food, an in-house staff, and a private tennis court.

Not bad. Not bad. But, as a poor twenty-something-year-old who finds themself magically in this castle, you really only have one place to go. Down. In fact, you have to move out on your 21st birthday at which time you are fully on your own.

And a mansion isn’t within budget. In fact, you can barely afford a bug-ridden apartment.


Forever looking back

Your one year of mansion living will undoubtedly be great, but with that positive comes the unintended negative; the fact that upon leaving, you will find it extremely hard to downshift into whatever it is you can afford.

You set the bar for your lifestyle incredibly high.

A high that will be a struggle to reach again for some time. Yet all the while, as you move from one place to another, you’ll always be thinking back to that mansion. Of the laundry service. Of Caviar-Friday’s.

Not in an inspirational way.

But more in a way of missing something that you may never have again. Like a lost love. Or the Chinese leftovers you were planning to eat but your roommate got to first. All you can do is reminisce on what once was and may never be again.


Someone cooking with smoke rising into their face.


Why I consciously reject the second screen

In my work, I have countless opportunities to utilize a second screen.

To have two (or more) massive monitors sitting on a desk, each filled with tabs, notes, and resources. A productivity mansion, if you will. But instead of taking the bait, instead of accepting this something good, I consciously decline. I say no to the castle because I know what unintended consequences lie in wait.

I like my freedom. I like the ability to work wherever I deem fit. To not be stuck at a desk if I don’t want to. To not even be tied to a computer if I don’t want to.

So early on, I recognized that the second screen, though tantalizing, came with a feeling of needing the second screen.


Needing the second screen

Have you ever spoken to someone that uses a second screen for their work? Now, have you ever spoken to them when they’re working from a different location and only have a laptop?

All they do is complain about how they miss their second screen!

They can’t get any work done through all that complaining. All they do is reminisce about the good ol’ days when they were at their desk. Which is totally fine. I am certainly in no place to judge. All I can say is that when it comes to my productivity, feeling like I need to be at my desk in order to get work done isn’t appealing.


My preference for productivity

I have no issue with someone wanting a second screen for productivity, but before you take that plunge, ask yourself what you want. Not just in a career, but in life. And from there, consider the unintended consequences that come with making the second-screen decision.

For me, I want to be productive anywhere.

If I want to do something while I’m out of town, I don’t want to have to wait anxiously to get back to my desk to do it. I just want to be able to do what I want to do, when I want; to be fully productive no matter the situation.


The wing of a plane in the air during sunset.


I only need my phone and laptop

I can currently complete most minor tasks on my phone. So portability is covered from that standpoint. And for more important tasks, I have a laptop with a standard-sized screen, which is nearly as portable.

That’s all I need to be totally productive from a tech-perspective. I may also use noise-canceling headphones that, when stored, are smaller than a baseball, but they’re not required. My “workstation” is compact and mobile-friendly.

Because, again, I want the option to be fully productive wherever I am.

It’s like I’m intentionally living in a small apartment so that my money is freed up and I can travel the world. The opposite to that is living in a mansion but never being able to leave as all of my money is tied to it.


The allure is still there

I still get tempted by bright new screens.

I still feel the tug of want when I talk to friends or see videos about fancy work setups. But it’s in those moments that I remind myself of what it is that I actually desire: to be fully productive wherever I am. Not just at a desk.

So I hold steady with my laptop and phone.


Moving forward with (or without) your second screen

In your life, then, consider what it is that you want.

Do you admire the desk-life and love the idea of two, three, or four screens (ie. the mansion with no extra money)? Or do you imagine a mobile existence that allows you to get your work done productively anywhere (ie. the apartment with full funds)?

There is no right answer so long as you take the time to consider what it is that you truly want.

Be intentional with your productivity. Consider the possible unintended consequences of your choice. And from there, choose the option that best reflects your desire.

I’ll see you around the building.


PS: Let me show you how to achieve your goals.

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