I’m not here to tell you how to live your life. If you want to be constantly buried underneath a mountain of browser tabs, that’s your choice. But I think you can do better, and I’ll try to explain why.
Browser tabs are a blessing and a curse. It’s handy to have multiple pages open at once, but it can easily get out of hand. You probably have this very page open among a dozen other tabs right now. Are they all really necessary, or are you hoarding?
It’s Not Good For Your Brain
People tend to think that they’re “good” at multitasking if they’re able to perform multiple tasks at once. However, that isn’t taking into account a very important part of it—are they performing those tasks well?
Multitasking is a big reason why people keep so many tabs open, but it can have the opposite effect. Too many tabs can create information overload. The constant switching between tabs can lead to short attention spans. All of this trains your brain in a way that makes working efficiently more difficult in the future.
Studies have backed this up as well. Some studies have found that heavy multitasking can cause you to perform worse on cognitive tests. One study ran MRI scans on the brains of multitaskers and found they had less brain density in areas that controlled empathy and emotions. That’s, uh, not good.
Doing multiple tasks at once doesn’t make you more productive. You’re just splitting your attention and every time you switch tabs you lose concentration. Stick to one task at a time, complete the task, and then close the tabs and move on to the next thing. Your brain will thank you.
It’s Okay to Miss Out on Some Things
Your nasty habit of keeping too many tabs open could also be driven by FOMO—the “Fear of Missing Out.” Maybe you keep Twitter open so you never miss a tweet. People are talking about a news story so you open a page about it to see what the fuss is all about.
This is another way in which you can overload your brain with information. The internet is a big, vast thing. You’re going to miss out on some stuff. You may not see every single status update from your friends. Some trends will pass you by. This is okay. You have to accept that you’re not going to be able to see everything.
There Are Better Ways to Save Pages
Another reason why people keep so many tabs open is to save them for later. Everyone has done this at some point. You find something interesting on the web but can’t look at it at the moment. So you just keep the tab open until you have time later.
This is the hoarder’s mentality. “I can’t use this right now, but maybe I will some other time.” Sure, sometimes that’s a valid reason to keep something. But just like it’s not useful for a hoarder to keep things in a pile in the corner of the room, it’s not useful to simply keep a tab open.
One of the easiest ways to manage these types of tabs—things you want to take action on later—is to use the browser’s built-in tools. Remember bookmarks? They’re still a thing. Microsoft Edge even has a “Collections” feature. Tab Groups don’t technically reduce the number of tabs, but you can at least minimize them for fewer distractions.
Throwing something into a corner—or in this case, your browser window—is a very inefficient way to save something. It’s much better to put it in a dedicated spot, such as your bookmarks.
Look, I understand you probably feel like you need all the tabs you have open. And I’m sure you can “quit at any time.” Take a hard look at your tabs right now. How many of them are actually necessary for the task at hand? What would actually happen if you closed some of them? I think you’ll be okay.