Goodbye, Tabs!! Hello, Context!!
- There are a few reasons you may have too many tabs open:
- You are saving things for later
- You were in the middle of something and got interrupted
- You are visiting/checking some websites or web apps so frequently that you figure it is easier just to always have them open
- You’ve got Internet FOMO
2. BUT there is only 1 reason why you should ever have multiple tabs open:
- You are currently working on a task or project that has information spread across different web apps/pages. In other words, you need to see and have available the CONTEXT necessary for your work.
3. The rest of this post is about CONTEXT — why we need it, how we organize it, what we do with it, and how to approach your tabs from a CONTEXT MINDSET that will allow you to close all of them.
4. If you take only one action based on reading up to here or through the whole post, please install a Chrome extension like Tab Suspender that will at least save your Chrome from running sooooo slow with all those tabs open.
This is a post about tabs. Tabs on tabs on tabs. Are you in a battle with tabs right now? How many open tabs can you count in your browser window? Don’t worry, I’m not judging. When I am on calls with clients and ask them to share their screen, at least 75% of the time the first thing they say to me is “ok, but please don’t judge how many tabs I have open!” I’m not judging. But I am hoping that we can work on this together.
I’m sure it is coincidental, but the creators of the TABS game (pictured above) were spot on in turning TABS into an acronym like “Totally Accurate Battle Simulator”. Our open tabs are simulating a battle that we are having for our time, attention, and focus, and they are attacking our ability to stay organized and to plan ahead for the future.
Our struggle with too many tabs is purely about mindset and approach. We are coming at this thing with a tab mindset — rationalizing legitimate reasons why we need those tabs open. Like I said in the TL/DR — you might be saving things for later, you got interrupted and think you will come right back, or just keeping things open because you want to click on them again and again.
You may have been unduly influenced into this mindset. When I first started working with Salesforce many years ago, it was a mantra that we had and tried to really drill into all of our users’ heads — “right-click to open in a new tab”. We said this so often that when I was helping colleagues use Salesforce, they would be so proud to show me the many tabs they had opened. Oh my god, I look back on that now and feel like I contributed to the negative culture of having so many tabs open — my bad, friends!! But our intentions were in the right place — and that is on Context.
Context. Dictionary defined as “the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.” Context is the reason that we were telling people to open so many tabs. We wanted people to have all the information they needed, whether that was to see the full picture of their constituents or to help with building a report or understanding aggregated numbers. Is there a non-binary, gender-non-specific way to say that Context is King?
WE NEED CONTEXT.
There is SO MUCH information swirling around. Without context, we can get lost in it. If we approach the use of tabs from the mindset of building and operating within context, then for the most part having those tabs open makes no sense at all.
For example, let’s think about a New York Times article open in one of your tabs; the context for this is that you want to read it. It is sitting next to a tab that is the login screen to your college alumni portal; the context is that you recently got a new job and want to update your information in the portal. This tab is sitting next to your gmail tab; the context is that you are still working on your relationship with email and have the urge to click and look into it every few minutes. This is sitting next to a tab with your amazon cart; the context is that you need to buy some new socks, but you want your partner’s input first because they always know the best socks to buy, but you won’t see them until later tonight so you are keeping it open until then. (Please feel free to add to the comments a list of tabs you have open and their context).
With a context mindset, we can take more productive actions and place information where it will be most useful to us at the time we need it. Here are our example tabs again, their context, and what we can do to get rid of the open tabs:
And what about when you are focused on just one project or workstream, and all your tabs have different information on them that are part of that work? I suggest creating a “Context Page”. This is a Doc or a spreadsheet where you take all or some of the information from the websites you have open in your tabs and paste them into one place, so all your context is now close together, and you can close out those open tabs.
This is the ideal situation — place your tabs in context and close the tabs, as early and as often as possible. Now, am I myself in that ideal place yet? HELLA NO. I have multiple tabs open many times. My biggest open tab mistakes are with my calendar and my gmail. Don’t really need them. Why are they open? I’m going to close them now. It will be ok. But I’m just saying, this is a journey and a process. Like Inbox Zero, it is something I’m continually working on, and you can be, too.
One word of caution: There are many out there with excellent solutions (such as those in article upon article) for “managing” your open tabs. I am not talking about how to manage multiple tabs. Instead I am asking you to adopt a context mindset to get rid of tab usage altogether. If you do use some sort of tab “management” system, consider how the context mindset can be applied to that system. The exception to this rule is the use of an extension like Tab Suspender that will stop open tabs from taking up so much memory on your computer and slowing everything down.
OK, that’s it — let’s get to the commenting. Do you LOVE having multiple tabs open and want to show how your system supports your productivity? Is there one system or extension you use that you can’t live without for your tabs? Have you been grouping tabs into their contexts all along and want to add your best tips & tricks? You might think that I’m sick of talking about tabs, but I actually am very eager to hear from you!
Originally published at https://www.maketechworkforyou.com on August 7, 2020.