Getting Things Done

How to Get Rid of Too Many Browser Tabs

One thing I always find common among people who use a browser all day is the shear amount of tab hoarding they do. I find this totally insane for a number of reasons. The first being that it’s completely counter-productive. You may not realize it, but each tab you open becomes a weight on your mind. The more tabs you open, the more distracted your mind becomes. The more distracted your mind, the less productive you will be in general. In this post, we will go over a few reasons why we open multiple tabs and talk about ways to minimize the impact or get rid of those tabs entirely. You can only read one thing at a time, after all.

Doing Research

One area where we may find it hard to avoid multiple tabs is doing research. Doesn’t matter what kind of research it is, the end result is a gang of tabs or windows open with stuff related to your topic. You might rationalize this as the way research is done. If you were using actual books, you might have a bunch of them open to you, possibly scribbling notes from each or comparing their contents. This is a new day and you’re not using real books. These are just web pages and you can take them with you.

The solution here is to focus on each source and find the pieces that you need. Then, use something like Evernote to clip those pieces from the page and save them for later. Then, you close that tab and move to the next.

Keeping Up With Stuff

We all like to keep up with our social networking sites and forums. The problem arises when you have Facebook, FriendFeed, Twitter, Myspace, Buzz, and Email all in their own tabs in the same browser that you’re trying to do work in. It can get pretty ridiculous. We have to remember that you can only read one page at a time. You can only check one site at a time. There are a couple of solutions here:

  • Application Shortcuts – Instead of keeping a tab open with Facebook or whatever running in it all day, just create an Application Shortcut. This makes Facebook a separate application from your browser that you can run at any time and close at any time. Chrome makes creating these shortcuts simple. You can also use Fluid or Prism.
  • Pin Tabs – Another solution which reduces the clutter a little is to pin these tabs in your browser. This reduces their size to just an icon and tucks them off to the side. Chrome does this out of the box, but there are add-ons to accomplish the same with Firefox.

The one thing you should remember here is that you shouldn’t be checking all of these places all of the time. Try to set aside intervals where you take a break from your work and just dive into social media and email for a few minutes. This will increase your productivity by giving your mind a rest, making sure you keep your “inboxes” clean, and minimizing distractions.

Remembering Important Tasks

Sometimes, you come across a website that you need to take action on. There is something specific you need to do on this website, but you’re doing something more pressing at the moment. Instead of just leaving that tab open in your browser as a reminder, create an item on your task list and get it off your mind for now. If you’re not going to do it now, it shouldn’t be in your face. Most task managers allow you to add a task description, a URL, and whatever notes you might need for later. Remember The Milk even provides you a bookmarklet for just such an occasion.

Reading Things Later

You just came across something you want to read or a site you want to explore, but you just don’t have time at the moment. Don’t just leave the tab open and hope you get back to it later. You know you don’t have time to fully examine the link, but you need to make the time to properly bookmark it for later. Use the bookmarklets provided by sites like Diigo and Delicious to bookmark and tag the site before closing that tab. Leaving it open is counter-productive and the few seconds it will take to bookmark it are well worth the time investment. You could also try ReadItLater (FFx add-on) or Instapaper for this situation.


Your primary concern in dealing with tab hoarding should be the same as any other area of your life where you’re trying to be productive. You have to act on each thing immediately. If you can’t read it or handle it now, save it for later. The point is to get it out of your face and off your mind until you’re ready to take care of it. Otherwise, your general productivity takes a nose dive.



Rahsheen says:

Happy to assist! You know I'm always down to help people be more productive 🙂

rmcaldwell says:

Rahsheen! I still use iCyte because of you. And I'm experimenting with Instapaper now. Thank you for this.

dionak says:

Ditto. I've done the same. Interesting tools but I'm noticing the similarity to tools I already have and don't use. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

ChaCha Fance says:

I do this too even though I know about and use most of the above-mentioned tools. Sigh. I must do better.

socialsea says:

I'm guilty. Great suggestion. I'll try to clean my act up. Thanks for sharing.

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