Close your browser tabs

by Jason Swett,

When I teach programming classes or pair program with colleagues, I often encounter people with a whole bunch of browser tabs open at once.

I want to explain to you why having too many tabs open is bad.

The cost of tabs

Tabs cost mental RAM

As we work, we’re always juggling thoughts in our head. I call this our “mental RAM”. It’s a finite resource.

Each tab you have open occupies some space not only on your browser screen but also in your brain. There’s a part of you that wants to remember “don’t forget, I had that one Stack Overflow answer open in a tab in case I need to go back to it”. You might not be consciously aware of it but that open tab is taking up part of your precious mental RAM, RAM that could and should be used to do actual work, but instead is being wasted on thinking about tabs.

Tabs cost wasted moves

I’ve often had the experience where I’m pairing with someone and their open tabs cause them to go from tab to tab and go “whoops, not that one”, “whoops, not that one”, “whoops…” Each time this happens, my blood pressure rises a little bit. Maybe if you didn’t have 36 tabs open you wouldn’t be wasting so much of my time and yours.

Why people keep tabs open

Presumably, the justification for keeping a tab open is that 1) you think you’ll need the tab’s contents later, and 2) you think it will cost more to re-find the contents of that tab than to keep the tab open.

You’ll need it later (probably wrong)

Most of the tabs people keep open are never actually needed later.

It’s too costly to re-find the tab’s contents later (probably wrong)

Even if you do need the tab’s contents later, it’s usually way cheaper just to re-open the website.

So, close your fucking tabs!

If you have any tabs open right now that aren’t directly related to what you’re currently working on, I invite you to close them. They’re probably costing you more than they’re worth.

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