Lifehacker has spilled a lot of digital ink over the years trying to help you get your browser tabs problem under control. How to use tabs more efficiently on Chrome. How to reopen your tabs after a browser crash. How to get an intervention for your tabs addiction. The best browser extensions to make opening a new tab better. But today I’m sharing a bold take that you might not like: You should just close all of your tabs regularly, without poring over them first. Just close ‘em all.
I don’t say this lightly. I have been known to regularly keep browser tabs open for weeks—even months—before finally plowing through that New Yorker long read or adding those best albums of the year to my Amazon Music queue. But with the expectation of getting a new work laptop today, I decided to do a little browser maintenance over the weekend, and after 10 minutes of trying to deal with each tab before closing it out, I finally just said “screw it’ and closed them all…and I felt instantly free. (Well, freer. Everything is still terrible.)
Writers and psychologists have mused at length about why we all have so many open browser tabs. According to Digital Information World, clinical psychologist Marc Hekster observed that computers and phones now serve as an “extension of our brain”; you can think of open tabs like your subconscious noodling away at something you don’t have time to devote your full attention to. Metro UK’s Ellen Scott likens the functionality to “task-switching”; it allows us to move on to a new activity when we grow bored—but also invites distraction.
But at a time when I am already particularly distracted—by the increasingly bizarre news, increasingly intrusive social media, my increasingly demanding children who have been stuck at home for nine months—the last thing I need is more distraction. Those tabs lurking at the top of my browser bar not only make it harder to find the various windows I need, they actively encourage me to do anything but focus.
If tabs are also troubling you—or turning your browser into an unwieldy system-hogging beast—just close them all without looking at them. Do it at the end of every work day, or before you go to bed, or multiple times in-between. If it turns out you really did need one of those tabs, a record of it will still be there in your browser history. For all the rest: out of sight, out of mind.