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The New Habit Challenge: Single Task By Using Only One Browser Tab At A Time

We’ll see your Tabless Thursdays and raise you Tabless Week. Can working with only one tab open help us be more focused and get more done?

The New Habit Challenge: Single Task By Using Only One Browser Tab At A Time
[Photo: Flickr user chluna]

Editor’s Note: Join our resident habit expert Rachel Gillett and other Fast Company editors on Friday, October 3 at 11am ET for a live chat about whether going tabless is worth the payoff, and weigh in with your own thoughts.

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We know multitasking doesn’t work. And yet we can’t seem to help ourselves.

And while it may seem like having 20 browser tabs open helps you get more done, all it really does is divide your focus and slow down your progress on any given task.

At least that’s the notion behind Tabless Thursdays.

Internet tabs feed into our multitasking addiction, which, as we all know, doesn’t end well–the more we multitask, the less we’re able to learn, concentrate, or be nice to people.

Recent research even shows that some multitasking negatively affects our brains: researchers observed smaller gray matter density in subjects who frequently jump from one device to the next. “Media multitasking is becoming more prevalent in our lives today, and there is increasing concern about its impacts on our cognition and social-emotional well-being,” writes one of the study authors, neuroscientist Kepkee Loh.

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While the Atlantic‘s James Hamblin explains Tabless Thursdays more thoroughly in the video above, the solution is actually quite simple: only keep one tab open at any given time.

“This way you really have to make a value judgment and say, “Do I want to finish what I’m doing or do I want to stop and do something else,'” he explains.

He says that you can click away if you’re not interested, but then you have to close the tab. “It’s done and it’s behind your and it’s not part of your life.”

Skeptical that this challenge is possible? Me too, just look at how many tabs I have open as I’m writing this!


But for those that worry they’ll be missing out on work-relevant tab-opening, if you see a link that’s just begging to be opened, try copying and pasting it into a working document instead. That way you don’t feel the nagging sense that you missed out on something important, but you are still able to focus on the tab at hand. You can visit that link once you close your previous tab.

To make this challenge a little more feasible, I’ll ask coworkers to message me through Google Hangouts, which will popup via the desktop app. Also, email, Spotify, and Word documents are okay, since they’re separate applications. But the 30 extra tabs? Gone.

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I hope you’ll join me, challenge yourself to stick to one Internet tab and one only and tell us what you loved and hated about it, if it worked or totally bombed, and we may feature your response in an upcoming Fast Company story. Responses must be submitted to habits@fastcompany.com by end of day Thursday, October 2, 2014.

About the author

Rachel Gillett is a former editorial assistant for FastCompany.com’s Leadership section. Her work has been featured on PopPhoto.com, AOL.com, and elsewhere.

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