paul le

Minimalism and Tab Management

For years, I have always struggled with tab management on my internet browser. I had a terrible habit of always keeping several dozen tabs opened at the same time - each one seemingly important enough that I needed the tab opened, just in case.

Not only does this take up a lot of computing resources, but I’ve realized that it also takes up a lot of mental resources as well. Having several tabs opened at the same time can be overwhelming, and a big weight on your mind. This is especially true when you are trying to get something done, and you have several unrelated tabs opened for other tasks that you also need to get done.

A few years ago, I stumbled across a browser plugin called OneTab, which promises to “save up to 95% memory and reduce tab clutter”. The idea is that whenever you find that there are too many tabs opened on your browser, you simply click on the OneTab button, and all of your tabs will be closed and prepended into the OneTab tab, which contains a list of all of the tabs you previously had opened.

The latest tabs that I have added to my OneTab tab — yes, I have more than 11k tabs saved in total

This is different from many of the other tab management plugins that I have tried, as you still have a tab opened on your browser with your closed tabs. When you click on the list item for a tab, that page will be opened as a new tab, and be removed from your OneTab tab.

To me, being able to manage my tabs on the browser inside of a tab made me feel better about “closing” my tabs and bringing them into OneTab, as my saved tabs are still visible and easily accessible.

Despite all of that, I still had the habit of keeping several dozen tabs opened at the same time. I would always wait until I absolutely had to bring my tabs into OneTab, before I actually did. Usually, this would be at the end of the week, when I’ve had over 30 tabs opened that I have been trying to navigate through for the past week.

In many ways, I was still back to where I had started a few years ago when I had first discovered OneTab.

Practicing Minimalism with Tab Management

Starting around a month ago, I decided to proactively address this issue again, and apply principles of minimalism to my tab management. I made myself follow these rules:

  1. If I am not actively working with a tab (i.e. I am reading or watching something on that tab), then I will bring it into OneTab.

  2. At the end of the day, I will bring all of my tabs into OneTab, no matter what.

  3. If there is something that I need to research or look up, I will first search through my OneTab tab first before I open up Google.

Since then, I have felt significantly more productive. I now only have the minimal amount of tabs opened at a time, and every tab that is opened serves an immediate purpose. The clarity that comes with having a clutter-free browser experience greatly outweighs any fears of missing out on losing information by not having all of my tabs opened at the same time.

The last rule above also draws on a common theme in minimalism. Instead of always seeking something brand new, it is better to revisit what is already there, and to try and rediscover its value. Lately, instead of adding to the thousands of tabs that I have saved in OneTab, that number has actually been decreasing.

Sometimes, I’ll realize that some of the tabs that I previously had opened were actually useless, and that I don’t need to keep them anymore. But more often than not, I have come across many new insights from rereading pages that I had saved in the past, and have found use out of them again.

Through applying some principles of minimalism, I now have a much better grasp of how I manage my browser tabs.

May 5th, 2020