Did giving up second-screening make me happier?

After reading this article about why second-screening can be horrible for us and how we’re all “doing it wrong,” I decided to go without a second screen for a week. This meant no chatting with friends while watching a YouTube video or reading news while watching a movie. I also couldn’t look anywhere else during a conference call or check my phone during a meeting where someone was presenting.

This is slightly different than uni-tasking; instead of only focusing on one thing at a time until I was finished with it, the only rule was that I could only look at one screen at a time. This meant that I could still switch from one activity to another, such as from working on a PowerPoint deck on one monitor to email another, but I had to make a conscious choice to switch rather than quickly flitting back and forth. In a future week, I’m planning on committing to uni-tasking, but this felt like a good first step.

Second-screening is way harder than I thought. This was the first time writing this blog that I failed. I ended up accidentally second-screening without even thinking about it so many times. Overall, the act of stopping to think of whether I really need to check my phone or look at my email on another monitor right now was a great way to make sure I was doing the right things at the right time. I also watched way less on YouTube this past week because there were countless times where I started doing something else on my second monitor and realized that I honestly didn’t care about what was happening in the video. When I successfully single-screened, I paid way more attention and got a lot more out of what I was doing, whether it was a meeting, a movie, or a conversation I was having with a friend online. I also learned, similar to my week meditating, that my ability to focus is not at all where I need it to be. In a future week, I’m going to fully dedicate myself to uni-tasking and see what happens.

Did not second-screening make happier? In the short term, definitely not. It was incredibly frustrating, and I felt awful for not being able to focus for more than two seconds on anything. In the long term, I think it will make me happier. It’s an amazing when you break the habit, and single-screening really helped me focus and make the most of my time. I will continue to try to avoid second-screening where possible.