Hi Sam, great question!
Here’s what I do when I encounter a link in an article:
- open it in a new tab
- if it’s short (a definition, code snippet, or academic paper abstract) I’ll read it real quick, then close the tab.
- if it’s long, I’ll read the first paragraph, then decide whether I want to keep reading or close the tab and move on with the original article.
My reasoning for not leaving tabs open is that, since I always have more work to do (it’s just a question of triaging), I’ll never have time to return and give that tab proper attention.
If a link is important enough, it will be widely cited, and I’ll be likely to encounter that content again in the future, anyway. So closing the tab and moving on isn’t all that big a deal.
If the original article is well-written, it shouldn’t require me to go read external resources in order to understand it —it should give me a reasonable inline summary so I can keep reading.
When I write, I make a conscious effort to only use external links for citation or for “nice-to-have” additional content.
I once had a tab problem. Dozens of tabs would pile up, unread. Not any more. If I’m not using a tab, I just close it. In the rare case that I need to access something again, I just use command+shift+t to open up previously closed tabs and find it again.
Right now I only have two tabs open: Medium and my current Soundcloud likes.
I’d say hitting “inbox zero” and vigilantly closing tabs are two developments in the past few years that have made my life much simpler. I guess I could have mentioned these two tips in my original article, but they are not effortless — they take a lot of discipline to stick with.