Organizing Your Tabs Is The Key to Being More Focused

How to avoid tab overload

Are you multitasking as you read this?

You’ve probably told yourself that you aren’t. After all, you’re only reading one article, right? But, wait — are you also listening to music? Are you eating breakfast or lunch while listening to music and reading this article? Are you glancing at notifications from your incoming emails? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, you are multitasking.

For me and many others, one of the most common catalysts for multitasking is having an excess of browser tabs open at any given time. Several of these are articles to read later, a few are documents related to ongoing tasks, and perhaps tab number 14 holds an online shopping cart that’s calling your name.

While multitasking feels productive, having several tabs open actually makes you scatterbrained, decreasing your ability to remember any single piece of information, while also slowing down your computer. Moreover, research shows that people who frequently multitask are significantly worse at “basic tests of spatial perception, memory, and selective attention” when compared to their monotasking (tackling a single task at a time) counterparts.

You likely want to deal with the tab overload situation, but you fear accidentally closing an ‘essential’ tab and losing the information that could have changed your life. To avoid catastrophe, you might try organizing your tabs into different windows or in order of urgency, but it’s never a perfect system.

Lucky for us, the same internet that’s sometimes the source of our stress is also the solution to our problems. In this case, it gifts us with tab managers. These browser extensions help reduce multi-tasking by allowing you to collect your precious tabs into an out-of-sight (but still accessible!) list, gently nudging you towards monotasking.

Sarah Chapman, Ph.D. and founder of the Center for BrainHealth, writes about the benefits of consistent monotasking. She says that “adopting healthier thinking habits can rejuvenate your mind, promoting upsurges in neuron-nourishing blood flow, the creation of new brain cells, and improved communication between regions of the brain.” In other words, taking on one task at a time can actually build new brain cells and help you connect the metaphorical dots in a more efficient, focused manner.

Why does this matter? Because it takes the human brain 23 minutes to refocus once attention is broken. Sticking to one ta — or one task — at a time can help avoid this wasted 23 minutes per distraction.

Here are a few tab managers to set you on the road toward monotasking:

OneTab: With one click, it puts all of the tabs from a browser window into a list that you can save as a web page. You also have the option to restore all tabs from the list. (Chrome and Firefox)

Toby: This brings tab management to a whole new level. Acting as a tab manager, to-do list, and product manager hybrid, Toby is an interactive extension that uses the “drag and drop” method to organize tabs in a central window, allowing tagging, renaming, reorganizing and automatically syncs across multiple desktops for team collaboration. (Chrome)

Tab Lister: Similar to OneTab, this pulls all open tabs across all windows to create a list that you can save for later within the extension or as a web page, share via email, and export as a list. (Safari)

Recent Tab List: Use this if you want to breath easier after an accidental tab closing incident. This lists recently closed tabs and open tabs, allowing you to reopen them quickly. It also has a live text filter that allows you to search through tabs. (Safari)

Tab Mix Plus: This manager offers a wide range of tab functionalities, from opening tabs in a new window to italicizing text on unread tabs to an undo closed tab feature. (Firefox)