When I was a kid, The World’s Strongest Man was televised each year during the fallow period between Christmas Day and New Year. The thing I remember most was the sheer release on the faces of men built like tree trunks when they stopped pulling a train, say, or rearranging Atlas Stones that had made ribbons of their forearms.
That’s the relief I feel when clearing all the tabs in my internet browser. Clicking the crosses like a long line of kisses finally indulged. There are many reasons why one has tabs open in double figures. In my defence, they are often related to work or research. The sense of lightness that comes over me when closing them is down to a task completed. It is a bit like setting one’s pen down at the end of an exam; the way the air feels that bit fresher coming out of the hall than going in.
Then there are the cajoling tabs bursting with opportunities to procrastinate. The icons of social media accounts winking alluringly or the random YouTube clip pulled up and watched four times for no apparent reason. I cannot tell you the number of tabs I have open on 10,000-word long reads that I will eventually, ostensibly, “get round to”. Closing these unread would be to acknowledge defeat, and so they just stay there, like a guest at a party whom you would like to leave but are too anxious to throw out.
When I first moved to the offices of this newspaper, I was quite shocked to find each individual had a single monitor. Where I had previously worked, each of us had a two-monitor setup that meant our tabs could be spread across two wide screens. I see now that this wasn’t helpful, but encouraged the habit. Because tabs, like gases, expand to fill their container. I will even open new windows to accommodate more of them. Sometimes I have more than one browser open and my desktop ends up looking like a game of solitaire.
We should take the same approach with tabs as when sorting a closet or bookshelf: if a tab has been dormant for a certain length of time, it should go. It’s only a moment’s work, and doesn’t involve the crushing revelation that 90% of your cashmere has been eaten by moths and everything else left untouched.
Close your tabs. All of them. One fell swoop. No looking back. If you need something, you will already have it bookmarked, or you will remember it well enough to revisit. Un-tab yourself. Go on. It’s pretty much the only life advice I am qualified to give.