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Why the many browser tabs you have open are terrible news for the brain

Learn how to debunk the multitasking myth, stop overloading your browsers (and brains) with multiple tabs, and rediscover productivity
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Have you ever been to an all-you-can-eat buffet? 

Or seen people at one? When presented with the opportunity, most of us would behave in the following ways:

Be overwhelmed by the sheer choice of dishes available for us to feast on or try to to get the most out of the price paid by sampling as many items as possible, overloading our plates, making multiple rounds to the buffet, and whatnot. Ironically, we would still be left dissatisfied because there’s only so much one can eat, right?

Having multiple tabs open on our browsers is just like heading to such a buffet. 

1. The sheer volume of information we work with everyday is mind-boggling. What to consume and what to ignore has become THE most important question of the Information Age.

2. We keep switching between answering emails and Slack threads, writing a LinkedIn post, jumping on a Zoom call, and finishing that darned slide deck for the emergency meeting. And yet, FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) has us believe we were not productive enough, did not do enough, did not achieve enough at the end of the workday.

Enter multitasking.

This mythical creature that seems to be sprinkled with magical fairy dust falsely leads us to believe that keeping many, many browser tabs open simultaneously and juggling tasks rapidly is, in fact, the key to being more productive. 

OOPS! Wrong conclusion!

Multiple tabs and multitasking are not good for our computers. And worse for our brains. 

Human brains were built for single-tasking. Have you noticed that switching from tab to tab doesn’t allow us to do more things simultaneously? Rather, it splits the brain between multiple tasks, releasing dopamine receptors with each switch, which delude us into feeling more productive. Multitasking is, hence, merely a socially acceptable term for context-switching i.e. the brain jumping from one task to another in rapid succession. 

Consequently, all the tasks in question suffer as lesser brain power gets allocated to each. Not to forget that the switching back and forth between the tasks itself consumes a considerable amount of the brain’s resources. 

The widely circulated myth that multitaskers are more intelligent, informed, and capable than single-taskers is just that - a myth.

“People who multitask a lot are in fact a lot worse at filtering irrelevant information and also perform significantly worse at switching between tasks, compared to single-taskers.”
  • Clifford Nass, Professor of Communication at Stanford University

A study from Paris goes on to demonstrate that attempting to do three tasks simultaneously resulted in the participants making three times as many errors as they made while juggling two tasks together. 

Another study from the University of Sussex found an inverse relationship between a higher degree of multitasking and the gray matter present in a person’s anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) - the part of the brain associated with cognitive and emotional processing. 

In simple words, multitasking may be making us dumber instead of smarter. It reduces our attention spans, damages focus and memory, and generates unnecessary stress and anxiety. You can conclude what it might be doing to our overall productivity, as well. 

So, when we know and understand how multitasking harms our brains instead of helping us achieve more in less time, why is it so hard to simply breathe and let go of the 500 browser tabs open on our systems? 

It turns out that at modern workplaces, there are other factors at play, too.

In today’s work culture where everyone is starved for time and plagued by unending to-do lists, everyday convenience can trump scientific concerns.

Imagine your product manager shares with you the link to a PRD that details all the features in the pipeline for the next release. Only, you are busy with meetings throughout the week and don’t have a chance to immediately read it in full to give your feedback and address the feasibility of what’s mentioned. 

What will you do?

If you are like most of us, you may want to keep the browser tab with the document open till you can come back to it. Why?

Well, the biggest reason might be fear. The fear of losing that important link forever and then racking your brains, trying to retrace the path that leads back to it. Or searching for it after a week’s worth of messages have been exchanged between you and your teammate, burying the link in an ever growing pile of information. 

Even if you were to save the link somewhere, the fear of not being able to fetch it when needed - and wasting truckloads of possible productive time - is another reason. After all, it could be anywhere - in yesterday’s Google Doc or on Pocket or Toby or Evernote or in your loooong list of bookmarks. 

Asking your colleague again (and again) for links may also not be the best option, least of all, because they might take ages to reshare it.

These, coupled with FOMO, are all valid reasons to justify our tab-mania. Because, unlike files, it’s hard to find, structure, organize, or simply name URLs.

Fortunately, that is one problem with a deceptively simple solution: OSlash

OSlash allows you to create an intuitive, easy-to-remember shortcut for all your links with a single click of the browser extension. You can choose to slash long, complicated URLs into OSlash Shortcuts for the entire workplace, for the team, or only for yourself. 

It makes finding and accessing links super easy. So you can close the tabs and not fear losing links anymore. You can bid adieu to diving into your emails, notes, saved posts etc. to locate and share information that is important to you. You can find relevant links and get to a page you need to - in less than a second! 

While some productivity tools like Pocket and Toby do allow you to save your tabs, they are not exactly designed for seamless multiplayer collaboration and information-sharing across the workplace.

It’s time. Forget the fear. Hit ‘close’ on those tabs and say bye-bye to the myth of multitasking. So that you can finally say hello to supercharged productivity. Will you?

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