Digital mindfulness tip: limit open tabs

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been working on getting better at full-screen living, or “digital mindfulness”. Being more aware and connected to every activity is an important way to increase your focus and be more productive.

One strategy I came across that will improve your digital mindfulness is limiting the number of tabs open in your web browser at a given time. Tabbed browsing is wonderful: it lets me be more organized by collecting all my browsing in one place, and helps me keep track of everything I’m reading or working on at any given point. But the benefits begin to disappear as more and more tabs enter the picture: by the time you have thirty or forty tabs open, tabbed browsing can get overwhelming. Tabs become less productive as you open more of them.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to stop the temptation to go tab-crazy. I use a Chrome extension called “Controlled multi-tab browsing” that limits me to a certain number of tabs open at a time. I’m currently using a four tab limit, but it’s set to six by default (you can set it to anything from 1 to 50).

The extension is flawless in my first week of use. The main problems arise when you encounter links that have their target set to _blank. Google Docs is a particularly bad offender: every time you open a link from your document list, a new tab opens. If you’re at your tab limit, the new tab won’t open and you’ll have to close another tab or open the item in a new window. Another minor complaint is that source tabs apply to your limit too; it’d be nice if the extension had a way to count those separately, although it does force you to be very selective about the tabs you keep open.

In spite of those little problems, I am really enjoying the extension and expect to be using it for quite some time. Maybe in time I’ll cut down my limit to two or three tabs as I improve my focus and digital mindfulness.

Firefox users might try the comparable extension “Window and Tab Limiter”. I haven’t tested it, but it looks like it would do the job.

Leave a Reply