To Get More Done At Work, Just Say No To Tabs


Rebecca Greenfield

June 20, 2014

In our brutal tab-plagued existence, distraction constantly lurks in the browser window next door. To combat the temptation, the Atlantic has suggested Tabless Thursdays, a way for the multitasking work force to escape the shackles of digital distraction and focus on just one thing at a time.

Single Tasking is the New Multi-tasking (Video)

Everyone knows that multitasking doesn’t work. It’s inefficient, and stunts creativity, productivity, and emotional intelligence. Yet, we all do it–I have seven tabs open right now, and the task bar looks pretty roomy to me. Fast Company has offered its readers various “monotasking” hacks, but Tabless Thursday might be the most accessible step in the right direction for a happier, more productive you. Here’s a useful guide to joining the movement.

Why Tabless Thursday?

For anyone who spends a big chunk of their workday at a computer, tabs pile up, each one a different task. Right now, for example, my tabs include Gmail, this article I’m writing, a couple of other relevant Fast Company links, and a Slate article on Clickhole. Arguably, most of those tabs relate directly to the task at hand, but as the day goes on more distracting tabs will pile up.

Sure, tabs are just one of the many Internet things that feed into our multitasking addictions. But they’re an easy target. Not everyone can afford to unplug, but all of us can close that tab, and in doing so have a broad impact on our lives. “It’s not just about tabs,” the Atlantic‘s James Hamblin explains. “Tabs are a metaphor for life, right? And if you can just have one tab open and be doing it well, then you are fully present in the moment.” Yolo.

How Does One Do Tabless Thursday?

First, close all your tabs, right now. “You don’t really use the Internet in a traditional way, you just sort of open a tab and use it,” Hamblin explains. “It’s called single-tasking.” For the entire day of Thursday, try as hard as possible to keep just one window open. If another tab creeps into the browser through a Twitter link, that’s fine. Close it.

Hamblin also says that activities outside the browser don’t count as tabs, meaning you don’t have to give up on all the useful, but simultaneously distracting Internetting of a normal workday. Tweetdeck doesn’t violate the rules, but does. Other handy applications include: Outlook, Spotify, and Adium for chat.

What If I Just Can’t?

It’s incredibly hard to have zero tabs. But it’s easy enough to try and keep tabs to a minimum. Hamblin looked for a way to disable tabs “because command-T is so ingrained in my brain,” he told Fast Company. Unable to find a plug-in for his purposes, he relied on self-control. For those looking for a way to close tabs, try Pocket or Instapaper. Put any interesting reads in a read-it-later app as soon as you open it, effectively giving yourself permission to ex out of that tab immediately.

For those who can’t get through the whole day sans tabs, go easy on yourself. “It’s a step in the right direction,” said Hamblin.

For those who do succeed, however, the benefits of singletasking will kick in immediately. “I feel slightly less overwhelmed,” Hamblin added. “At the end of the day I feel less like I ‘need’ wine.” So if you can, on this Thursday and for those Thursdays to come, say no to tabs.

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