Have You Ever Considered Traveling With Large Computer Monitors?

Click around the web and you’ll find estimates, all over the map, about how much screen size affects our productivity at work. The real numbers will obviously vary from person to person, and from task to task. But, for me, I’ve always preferred working on big screens.

When I managed a small design team in the mid 2000’s, the time it took us to create mechanical drawings was one of our business’s biggest constraints. I felt bigger monitors would help us work faster. I petitioned the owner of the business to purchase large monitors for all our designers. We had a long debate about it– it was a chunk of change — but he relented.

A few weeks later I walked into his office and, I noticed, he too had purchased a larger monitor.

“It works.” he said.

Of course, I have always thought, having extra large monitors wasn’t really an option for those of us who work location independently, often traveling week to week, month to month.

I spent most of my ‘traveling years’ with a 15″ Macbook tucked in my backpack. And when I bought a 13″ laptop last year I immediately felt the effects of less screen real estate.

So, when I signed a year-long lease last January, I over-compensated.

I went out and bought not one but two 27″ monitors…

A photo posted by Dan Andrews (@tropicalmba) on

I’d never travel with a big-ass monitor, though. That would be a total pain, right?

Perhaps not.

One evening, while scanning our forum, I came across a thread written by Halvor Halvorsen, founder of the Translatorium.

Here’s what he said:

Bringing the screen for travelling is actually very easy, I do it unless I’m going away for less than a week. Takes 5 minutes to assemble. When I pack it down, I just fill the bottom of the suitcase evenly with clothes with the screen faced down… The way I see it, it’s pure health and money… So more money, more spare time, and less suffering and pain. Who doesn’t want that?

Yeah, who doesn’t want that?

Of course, it depends on how you intend to travel. Bringing a monitor along on an open ended on-the-road adventure isn’t worth it.

But if you’re just going to Asia for a few months on business, and you’ve booked your accommodation ahead of time, why wouldn’t you take a suitable workstation?

So I decided to give it a try.

I figured that, in the worst case scenario, I’d crack a monitor. But perhaps I’d make up enough productivity to make it worth buying a replacement on my return to Barcelona?

Well, so far I’ve been on 3 long-haul flights and not a scratch. But, more amazing to me, is the ability to get work done. And here’s the thing: this might be even more important when you’re in town for a long conference, mastermind, or even exploring the neighborhood or checking out a new sport/activity/friends. If time at your workstation is limited, why not make the most of it?

I just arrived at an apartment in Bangkok 30 minutes ago, here’s my desk:

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Packing the monitor was simply a matter of putting it, face down, at the bottom of a standard, full-size piece of luggage.

I then (scientifically!) wedged a bunch of clothes around the critical corners, using my jeans and shorts as sort of a ‘wedge’ to hold it in place. Setup was a snap.
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At minimum, I was certainly able to write this blog post much faster :)

Pro tip: using a big screen becomes even more effective if you become proficient in keyboard shortcut tools like Better Touch Tool or Moom. These allow you to quickly move windows around your desktop. I often use screens side-by-side, or in some cases, have two windows open for reference while I work on one document (a ‘meta’ example: right now I am editing this post on the left side of my screen, and checking the final version on the right hand side of the screen).

Here’s what that looks like:
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Thanks again to Halvor Halvorsen, founder of the Translatorium, for bringing to my attention this delightfully simple idea.

Have you ever considered traveling with an external monitor? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Cheers,

Dan