Having too many browser tabs open hurts your productivity really bad.

Having too many browser tabs open is really really bad for you. It heavily drops your productivity. Here's why it happens and how to fix it.

Having too many browser tabs open is really really bad. It heavily drops your productivity.

Here's why it happens and how to fix it.

We all know that multitasking is virtually impossible:

And that doing less means doing better:

Multitasking makes us feel that we're productive, while we actually are not. And there are costs to context switching.

This is not multitasking, it's just tab clutter that frustrates you.

31 browser windows open containing 279 tabs

On average, users view the same number of pages per session but split their browsing into multiple tabs. This data shows that in general, tabs do not result in more pages being viewed, it just leads to multitasking.

Tabs do not result in more pages being viewed, it just leads to multitasking
Tabs do not result in more pages being viewed, it just leads to multitasking

(Source: https://jeffhuang.com/papers/ParallelBrowsing_HT10.pdf)

So why do people tend to keep tabs open?

Simple biases actually:

  • Hope that the info that was found will be needed soon (assumed intention)
  • Fear to lose that info (and not being able to find it again)
  • Avoidance of excess cognitive costs (it's already found, don't want to spend my time searching for it again)

So what can be done?

Like with any method, the one we propose is simple, but requires some discipline:

  1. Use knowledge base. Not bookmarks, or tabs. It'll make you more thoughtful about what you want to save, and allow you to become free of loss aversion
  2. Be thoughtful about what you save there. Don't save everything, because instead of a knowledge base it will turn into an intentions graveyard.
  3. Record your own thoughts and save links as references. (Actually, you don't need links, you need the info stored there)
  4. When you're done, just close all the tabs you don't need (If you do previous points - it will be easy)

Although there are people who manage to multitask efficiently, but mostly after lots of years of practice and with mechanical tasks. Knowledge work requires focus.

Don't try to be like this guy. He's almost genius being able to do that. Most of us are not like that and should not even try to think about several things at once, we will fail.

Focus is actually a secret of productivity and mastery.

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