Life

Closing Your Browser Tabs Will Make You A Lot More Focused

Marie Kondo your browser!

Welcome to HuffPost Canada’s (almost) daily guide to helping you pick up an easy, everyday ritual that can make your life a bit better, in a small but significant way.

Canadians are stressed out, anxious, and are feeling disconnected from each other. Every Monday through Friday, we’ll share a tiny tip to help you feel good. We’ve got your back.

Today’s habit: Close a few browser tabs.

For whenever you’re feeling: Overwhelmed by the amount of tabs you have open.

What it is: I work with people who are totally fine with dozens (yes, dozens) of browser tabs open. They’ve got the basics: email, calendar, Google Drive, social media pages, Slack. But then add on others: that 5,000-word article they’ve been meaning to read since last week; the quiz that tells them which Christmas movie they are; their Amazon shopping cart; not to mention the many tabs with all their work-related tasks.

But whenever I have more than five tabs open, I get panicky and overwhelmed, and as soon as I start closing tabs, I feel more organized about my day.

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How it can help: If you’re one of those people who isn’t bothered about leaving a ton of tabs open, then why are you even here? But if you want to cut them down to a more manageable number, well, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s Marie Kondo your browser!

For starters, you will be a lot more focused if you only have five tabs open as opposed to a dozen.

As Erin Greenawald at The Muse explains: “While you can argue that tabs save you time (I don’t have to re-open my Gmail every time I need to check something!) or that they’re a way to keep you from getting distracted (I’m just saving that article for later!), I think, deep down, we all know the truth: Tabs really feed our propensity to multitask — and drain our ability to focus on our work.”

This is something that Ellen Scott of Metro calls “task switching.”

“Having a bunch of tabs open is a digital way of us task-switching, and it’s the ultimate form of distraction,” Scott writes. “We may think that while we’re focused on one tab, we can block out all the others that are open. But in truth they’re still there, in the corner of our eye and taking up mental energy.

When I have more than 10 tabs open, I find myself constantly opening them to see if I need to update anything, or reply to a message, or re-read a passage, or check how well an article I write or edit is doing. It’s draining and I’m unable to focus on the task at hand. When I just have a few tabs open, I can focus on my work more easily. I’m not constantly looking at my Twitter mentions.

Dr Daria Kuss, the course leader of Cyberpsychology at Nottingham Trent University in the U.K. told Metro: “Having lots of tabs open can potentially result in information overload – whereby multitasking is requested, which may be difficult to handle by the human brain, and rather than creating efficiency, switching frequently between tasks may lead to short attention spans and a lack of depth in the ongoing tasks.”

The fewer tabs you keep open, the more likely you’ll be able to get real work done, or read that Longreads piece you’ve been meaning to get to, or finally send out that email to your family about the Christmas potluck. You will be able to concentrate more easily and be more present without all those distractions.

“Having a bunch of tabs open is a digital way of us task-switching, and it’s the ultimate form of distraction,” Ellen Scott writes in Metro.
“Having a bunch of tabs open is a digital way of us task-switching, and it’s the ultimate form of distraction,” Ellen Scott writes in Metro.

How to get started: There are a few ways to immediately help you get out of your tab hoarding ways. For starters, download a browser app such as Chrome’s “One Tab” or, our personal favourite, the browser extension “Tabagotchi,” which involves keeping an adorable Tabagotchi alive and thriving by keeping your tabs to a minimum.

Another way to close more tabs is to put all those links you want to save for later on one page — whether it’s in an email, a Word doc, or a Google Doc.

Finally, if there are pages that you refer to regularly, like your email, a calendar, a social media page, etc., put those into a bookmark folder so they’re easily accessible.

How it makes us feel: When we have five or less tabs open, we’re less distracted and more focused; we’re not as stressed out; and we’re less overwhelmed. Work is a lot more manageable the fewer tabs we have open.

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And that’s your habit of the day.

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