Productivity Tips & Tricks

Written by Darren Bruning on

Productivity Tips & Tricks

This is a random collection of stuff I do that helps me be productive.


I find 3 monitors perfect for my workflow:

  • The monitor on the left is “What I’m referring to” (e.g. blogs, stack overflow)
  • The monitor directly in front is “What I’m working on” (e.g an IDE, or document I’m editing)
  • The monitor on the right is “The output” (the running app or webpage that I’m working on)

There seems to be a trend towards having one giant widescreen monitor. Seems appealing aesthetically but the models I looked at seemed to not be very high DPI. I wouldn’t want to give up high DPI screens just to get that consolidation.

Virtual desktops

I use Windows Virtual Desktops to help keep me focused while developing.

  • Desktop 1 is “the real world”.
  • Desktop 2 (and higher) are focused work environments.

… with the idea being that I can be working in Desktop 2 for focused periods of time (maybe 25 minutes if I’m doing Pomodoro timers) and then drop back into the real world in the break periods. In reality I’ll drop back into Desktop 1 if I’m doing a build or release that’s going to take more than about 10 seconds and try to deal with some email or something while I’m waiting. Generally I don’t think this is productive – I wonder if there is an app to lock me out of Desktop 1 during focus periods>

Desktop 1 also has a particular allocation of monitors to tasks:

  • The left-hand monitor is “Tasks” - what should I be working on? That's a Firefox window with a tabset of things like Calendar, Trello boards, timesheet, pomodoro timer
  • The middle monitor is “Incoming” - gmail, slack, any other chats
  • The right monitor is iTunes

I’ve got bookmark-bar folders setup for each monitor:

… which means that I can quickly get each monitor setup in the morning by just right-clicking that folder and choosing “Open all in tabs”


  • Turn on “Unread message icon” (Settings -> Advanced) to see the number of unread message in the tab icon: