Your Tabs Are Not Your To Do List

nine post-it notes stuck to a fridge door arranged in a 3 by 3 grid

We all have our pet peeves. Things that we wish were different, but things that are unlikely to change any time soon. Towards the top of my list are tabs, or more specifically, those who use tabs as a to do list. Don’t get me wrong, I like tabs as much as the next person. I will often have 8-10 tabs open at one time as I navigate my way between multiple sites for the projects I am working on. However, my tabs are not my to-do list. They might be related to things I need to get done, but I close all my open tabs at the end of the day, and you can too. Here’s how.

The Problem With Tabs

There are a number of reasons why tabs are not great for a to-do list. However, for the sake of brevity, I am going to limit my rationale to just three.

  1. Discoverability: The more tabs you have, the smaller they get and the harder it is to find the one that you are looking for. Some people try to circumnavigate this by opening new windows, but usually this makes things even worse. Not only do you have to take guess at the tab you are looking for, you also have to find the right window. When you look at it this way, it’s inefficient to keep scores of tabs open because it just slows you down.
  2. Performance: Of course, tabs won’t just slow you down, they will also slow your computer down. Web browsers, like Chrome, are notorious for hogging all the available resources on your computer. The more tabs you have open, the harder your computer has to work to keep up. The fans will spin, websites will take longer to load, and your computer will generally be less responsive. More tabs = more problems.
  3. Redundancy: If your computer crashes, decides to install a critical system update, or simply shuts down because of a lack of battery power, will your tabs survive? They might. Modern browsers are getting better at restoring tabs after unexpected failures, but they are not infallible. Without some kind of backup you could lose those carefully curated tabs and you won’t see them again without digging in to your browser history.

So, if too many tabs are a bad thing, what could you use instead? Here are four possible solutions for your burgeoning list of tabs.

Solution 1: Bookmarks

If you get to the end of the day and you still have 72 tabs open for the projects that you are working on, you can save them as bookmarks so that you can come back to them when you next have more time. This is not the most ideal solution, but it is definitely among the simplest. You don’t need any additional apps or extensions, and you don’t have to learn anything new because we have all been bookmarking things for years. For better organization, I would recommend you create folders to organize those bookmarks. The folder can be on your bookmarks bar, or with the rest of your saved bookmarks, and you can delete them when you no longer need them.

Solution 2: Get Toby

If bookmarks are not your thing, try Toby. Once installed, this handy Chrome extension will let you create collections to organize all your open tabs. Simply create a collection, and click on the tabs you want to add. Once a tab is added to a collection, it automatically disappears from your tab bar. However, it’s not gone for good. Toby stores your collections in the cloud so that you can come back to them when you need them. You can retrieve a tab, or a group of tabs, from the “New Tab” page where you will see all your collections in Toby. From here, you can open one tab, or all the tabs in a collection, with just a click. When you are done with a collection, simply delete it and move on to your next task.

Solution 3: Drive Workspaces

If you live in the Google world, and you find that a lot of your open tabs are in fact Google Drive files, then you can take advantage of a recent addition called Workspaces. The name of this Google Drive feature is a little confusing because you now use Workspaces inside of Google Workspace, but that’s a problem for another day. The concept itself could not be simpler. Like Toby, it allows you to create collections where you can add Drive files so that they are all in one place. When you add a file to a Workspace, you are not removing it from its original location, you are just creating a temporary home for it. Once you are done working with these files, you can delete the Workspace. Job done.

Solution 4: Task Managers

Of course, if you are using tabs as a to do list, then maybe what you really need is a task manager; a way to save and organize these open loops so that you can come back to them later. There are lots of great options to choose from, many will work across all your devices, and most have browser extensions that let you add a website directly into your list of choice. Simply click the extension to add a website as a task, and before you know it, your tabs will begin to disappear.

Right now, I use Todoist but I’m taking a good hard look at TickTick and might switch soon. Google Keep, Apple Reminders, and Microsoft To Do are also solid contenders if you don’t already have a task manager. Simply create a list for the project you are working on, and add the tabs to that list so you can come back to them later. Then, close some tabs and bask in the knowledge that everything is safely stored away until the next time you need it.

Tab Extensions for Chrome

So there you have it; four ways to get a better handle on your browser tabs. If you want to explore some more options, try these tab managers for Chrome:

4 thoughts on “Your Tabs Are Not Your To Do List”

  1. I really liked TickTick but the lack of tables in the notes was a deal breaker. For now I’ll using Google Tasks and Keep with the markdown extension are as close to perfect as i have come. Checklist is another great alternative.

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