My desk has a lot of screens on it. One of the screens runs to a Windows 7 desktop. It also runs a few terabytes of archive material. Two center screens are my MacBook and its extended desktop. The fourth is an iPad and the fifth is an iPhone . My wife asks – are you sure you have enough screens? The answer for now is yes ( and as the image here from Scott Hansleman shows I’m already falling behind in that race).
One of the most important things the multiple screens do is enable flow. Flow is defined as
the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.
I first came across a description of flow a number of years back. It resonated immediately with two activities, painting and programming. Many painters and programmers will talk about getting lost in the activity at times to the extent that hours pass without notice.
Anything that breaks concentration breaks flow. My desktop setup helps encourage flow. I’ll often have one set of documents open on the MacBook across both screens and another set open across the PC. Evernote, Dropbox and a few apps are running across all the devices.
It’s one of the problems that I have with apps and particularly apps as closed systems and particularly on mobile devices. They break flow. There are ways of copying and moving information between systems, but all too often only in ways that make you think too hard about it.
The purpose of technology should be transparent to the task at hand. It shouldn’t be about getting in the way.