How to deal with too many open browser tabs

Image by 200 Degrees from Pixabay

I always have 10 or more tabs open. I know I’ve gone overboard when I can no longer see the favicon… or any of the words that tell me which WordPress window I’m blogging in.

Add to that another 30 to 60 tabs on my phone.

Each tab represents an unfinished task. And if you’re a mom, lots of things seem to go unfinished due to “interruptions.”

It’s always some type of research. Research I have every intention of coming back to–book, blog post, or car insurance rates. Then there’s that tab for my tax software. And the animes I’m watching. The ones on my phone are usually articles I want to read, recipes, or a google inquiry about a problem I’m having.

I close the tab I’m going to forget what I’m doing. I’m not going to be able to find the page again.

Keeping all those tabs open is slowly eating up my memory. My computer memory too.

There are two ways of dealing with this:

The first is to use a plethora of bookmarking apps to organize the tabs and come back to them later.

I don’t bookmark many things because, well, I’ll still forget about them, like the other 50,000 pages I’ve bookmarked over the years–and carried from device to device ever since Google Chrome started syncing.

But bookmarking apps have the potential to add to digital clutter– unfinished tasks that I’ll never return to. I’m attempting to avoid having a list of unfinished tasks and stuff on hold that will nag at me forever. That is not the Slow Paced way.

The second way to deal with the tabs is to keep them from getting out of control in the first place.

My goal is to keep as few tabs open as possible, and “saving” very important links in a place that is functional, and useful, as opposed to catch-all apps. Here’s how to deal with too many tabs open, based on what type of user you are.

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The Researcher

This is me, most of the time. If you’re doing book research, market research, blog post research, or a research paper for school, you’re inevitably going to end up with a ton of tabs. The tabs are websites you’re going to want to come back to–need to come back to. If you are writing a business plan or marketing plan, or coming up with social media content for a month, you have a document containing all of your notes/writing.

Instead of bookmarking or leaving the tabs open, you can drop the URL right in your document. Especially if you are going to be drafting for a few days.  Not only will the link be exactly where the topic is, but the link to your citation will also be readily available. You won’t have to ask yourself, “Which link does this quote reference?” It will be right there. You can leave it or take it out when your done.

Workflow is like this: Writing, writing writing. I realize I need to know exactly how the population of South Carolina has grown over the last 10 years. New tab, Google search, find a great website and the info I need. Go back and forth between my writing and research to copy down the numbers exactly OR decide I want to copy the numbers later because I don’t want to ruin my flow. Grab the URL, place it in the document (in a comment, or after the paragraph about the population). Close the research tab. I can make my citation, now or later. But the info is there. And when I’m ready to publish my blog post. I can delete the random URLs after creating my citations, links, or whatever. 

The link will not clutter up any bookmarking site, or app indefinitely.

Image by Jan Alexander from Pixabay

The Self-Improvement Junkie

Also me, to a certain extent. You do a Google search on a certain topic, like how to stop procrastinating. And instead of clicking on a link and reading it in the same tab, you open a new tab. Then you go back to your search results and open four or five more tabs from the biggest self-improvement gurus on the net.

In each of those tabs, you open another two or three more, and the cycle continues until there are too many–some on unrelated topics. But you want to read them all. See what everyone has to say. Your original inquiry has resulted in 10 or more tabs, some of them on different subjects.

My solution for you is–as it is for any junkie– go cold turkey and address the root of your problem.

This means, don’t open additional tabs after a Google search. Use the same tab. And know, if you click on another interesting topic on the webpage, you are going to navigate away from your original search. This is totally fine if that’s what you want to do. If you want to stay focused and really figure out how to quit procrastinating, utilize some self-control (which may be difficult if procrastination is your inquiry), and don’t click. If you aren’t satisfied with what you’ve read, you need to go back to the original search.

Content quality on the internet can be low, vague, not in-depth enough, and you may need to visit multiple websites to get some good advice. Just visit one website at a time.

When you find a strategy that you’d like to put into practice–finally a site with useful information, what do you do with it? You cant complete the 20 item list right now. This is when you bookmark it. When you are committed to following a process, and you will return to that useful guide on that process, then save this information in a bookmarking app. You don’t want to save the half-useful tid-bits that you aren’t going to re-read. You want to save the useful information that you’re going to return to.

My other suggestion for the self-help junkie is to stop asking Google how to solve all of your problems. Stop looking for other people–strangers–who have had the same problem as you. Exercise that wonderful mind of yours and think. Ask your Mom, a friend or a doctor for advice. Pray. If you have to open 15 tabs to get an answer, chances are you wouldn’t be satisfied with that answer anyway. Turn inward for your solution.

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

The Opportunity Scout

You are looking for gigs, a job, a scholarship, a grant.

You leave tabs open because you want to apply to particular opportunities. Leaving the tab open is an item on your to-do list. You utilize the “continue where you left off” setting, so you don’t lose a thing. Except you do, because you closed a new window last, not the window with all your tabs.

If you are only using one or two websites to find your opportunity, consider using those websites’ bookmarking or favorites feature. You can only apply to one opportunity at a time and will only need one tab open at a time. Also, keeping one tab open at a time will prevent you from accidentally writing Dear John Smith, when the hiring manager’s name is Anna Johnson.

Also, instead of using tabs, consider using a spreadsheet to manage your workflow. You have to keep track of deadlines, contact information, online application log-ins, interview dates, and the result of your application somehow. Use that spreadsheet to manage the links as well. Both Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel allow you to paste clickable hyperlinks into documents.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

The Reader:

Me. This usually gets me into the most trouble with tabs (second to researching). I read an article and click the link to the original study. Or I get to the bottom of a news article and I see three more pages I want to read. These are the tabs that are hardest to close.

Bookmarking apps seem like a great idea for this, but as I said before, I rarely find the time to return to them. And if by some miracle, I have nothing to read at a particular moment, most articles I’ve bookmarked in the past are out of date.

I love to absorb information, ed-op pieces, and educational pieces. The problem is, there is so much information out there being generated daily.

There were 69,606,863 blog posts published on WordPress in January 2020 alone. That is 2,245,382 posts a day. I couldn’t find statistics from a reliable source about news articles.

Obviously, I’m not trying to read all of the WordPress posts. But given the breadth of the internet, I’d surmise there are a few hundred million articles written each day, probably more. After a day, or even a few hours, news articles may be out of date.

After a few weeks, a blog post I was interested in may not be relevant to me anymore.

The key to avoiding too many tabs if you are a voracious reader is to stop opening them all in the first place. One at a time, my friend. Stop opening a new tab for each one of those “Related” links. Focus on reading and finishing one article at a time.

If you’re interrupted, decide whether or not you’re going to go back to what you’re reading. Go ahead and leave the tab open. But only if you are going to commit to finishing that article before doing anything else that requires additional tabs. I doubt you’re going to care about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle moving to Canada the next time you return to your device. Close the tab.

Secondly, when you’re thinking about opening new tabs, consider the value of what you’re going to read. Is it really worth your time? Are you going to care in an hour or two? Is the article going to be on your mind as something important or interesting to do? If not, consider giving it a pass.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The Decision Maker:

The best lawnmower, the cheapest web host, the cutest dress, which apartment to rent. This is what the internet and multiple tabs were made for. You have access to unlimited information, can see all available choices, and find the best available price. You don’t have to rely on biased sales people trying to get commission.

When shopping, whenever possible use the website’s “My list” or “Favorites” feature. Once you make a decision, close the other tabs, remove the other items from your favorites and make your purchase.

If your web research will take a few weeks, and the product is of significant expense, use a table or spreadsheet to keep track features, benefits, prices and URLs. I like writing things down in a notebook sometimes. I won’t write URLs, but I will write the company and product name, so I can find them again.

My husband and I created a spreadsheet to manage our apartment hunting. We could easily compare price, square footage, distance to work, how the staff treated us, and even common complaints on review websites. I didn’t have to have apartment complexes’ GPS directions and google reviews all open at the same time. I could look at the information at a glance.

If you are shopping clothing, or making a purchase based on something’s visual aesthetic, like your wedding dress, for instance, consider using a bookmarking site like Pinterest to keep track of all the products you find and like. Just make sure your board name is clear. Delete the folder after you make your purchase to prevent bookmarking clutter.

Sometimes, you need to have a few tabs open. You need to go back and forth between multiple tabs to make your choice. (Or maybe you don’t want to write anything down, or use a spreadsheet to manage your decision making.)

In this case, it is okay to have five or so tabs open. The key is not leaving them open for days or weeks on end. If your search is interrupted, I suggest using a browser extension for chrome called One Tab. It takes all of your tabs and puts them into a a list of URLs on one tab. When you return to search for the perfect item, deal with those items in One Tab.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

The Home Chef

Sometimes, when I’m looking for the perfect recipe, or plan for dinner, I’ll accumulate quite a few tabs. And those tabs will stay open for days because I’m not cooking that stuff right away. I need to make a list to go grocery shopping, and I’ll need to refer to the recipe when I cook it.

Once you find a recipe you like, extract the necessary information you need to go shopping, make your grocery list–I often use google keep, or a piece of paper. Then, you have two options:

Save the recipe URL in a reminder in your calendar for the day you plan to cook it. You will decide after you try it whether it is bookmark (or print-out) worthy.

OR

Bookmark the recipe right away.

Lastly, close the tab, and close all the rejected recipes.

I recommend using a bookmarking site like Pinterest to organize recipes. When I like a recipe, I return to it again and again. If I make it often enough (I’m looking at you, King Arthur Flour’s sourdough bread recipe), I Google search it, or it appears in the URL bar whenever I type the word sourdough. If I really love the recipe, I print it out and put it in my recipe binder. Pinterest has helped me organize and find recipes I’ve saved. I’m a very visual person and can remember which bread recipe I want by the picture.

Other Tips:

Integrate links into your calendar. Say you get an email about having to renew your repayment plan on your student loans. And you can never find that website when you need it. Create a reminder or an appointment on your phone calendar, and drop the link in the appointment notes. Most phone calendar apps offer ways to access the apps on the computer.

Any tabs that are associated with a task or a deadline can be placed in a reminder in your calendar.

Delete any bookmarks when you are done with them: Having five thousand bookmarks is pretty useless, because you cant quickly find what you need. That includes Pinterest boards/pins of rejected recipes, outfits, and design ideas.