Thursday, May 30, 2019

Eight ADHD Tips to Tidy Your Tabs & Bookmarks

You’ve heard the expression, “Less is more”? Too bad your bookmarks & tabs haven’t.[1]

Nice & Tidy Browser Tabs

Sometimes I wonder if there’s a support group out there for adults with ADHD who have a tabs & bookmarks problem.

Hello, my name is Douglas Cootey, and I’m a hard core tabs junkie.

Maybe this seems like a first world problem. Maybe you’re asking yourself, “What’s the big deal with several hundred open tabs and a million or two bookmarks?” If that’s how you think, you might need to join me at that meeting.

In theory there’s nothing wrong with lots of tabs and bookmarks. I did things that way for years. The problem I ran into, however, was although ToDo tabs were great, I had so many tabs open in my browser I couldn’t find what I needed. Just as ToDo lists can get long and unmanageable, ToDo tabs multiply until they become noise—no longer useful as resources or reminders. Bookmarks are the same way. Yes, you’ve saved that funny self-surgery with tweezers link, but where is it? Unless you organize your bookmarks regularly, they are probably a jumbled mess. They cease being useful. If you’re searching the internet for something you’ve already saved, maybe your system isn’t working for you.



Productivity takes a hit when our ADHD tendencies aren’t reined in for a simple reason: chaos means extra work. I once had so many tabs up, I kept researching the same material over and over again. I had forgotten the research was already available in two other tabs. Other times, when I do manage to remember my saved tabs, I have to dig through dozens upon dozens of them to find where the web pages I want are hiding. That’s assuming I don’t get distracted by an old tab during my search. I also find that open tabs can weigh on the mind. Many of them represent unfinished projects. When I’m not feeling tempted to finish them, they are probably distracting me from what I should be working on.

What turned me around was when my learning disabled daughter hopped onto my open Mac and somehow reset all my tabs. I had three windows open with 20–30 tabs in each window. Many of the tabs were open as a kind of wishlist on how I wanted to spend my time or money, but the majority were important research for my book. I literally sounded like Luke Skywalker when he met a certain long lost relative. All my research! Gone! Fortunately, my hourly backup allowed me to restore what was removed, but since that time I’ve changed how I utilize tabs and bookmarks. Why did I have so many open tabs anyway? It was terribly inefficient, risky, and a drain on productivity. If you’re as prone to distraction or wasting time on the internet as I am, you might find these tips helpful.

  1. Wipe the slate clean – Sometimes bookmarks and tabs get away from you. They accumulate like Tribbles. Open tabs often represent potential distractions in the form of things you want to buy but don’t need, projects you think you’d like to do someday, or research info on fields outside of your purview. If your tabs are anything like that, just jettison them into space. Each open tab is a potential thief of your precious time. The easiest solution is to start over from scratch with a clean slate.
  2. Don’t be afraid to delete – Maybe you don’t have the heart to delete them all. Did you realize that most of your links are probably dead or point to a wrong page now? The web changes constantly, but the fear of losing something will keep you holding onto everything. Before I pruned my bookmarks extensively a few years back, I discovered bookmarks for dead Geocities pages dating back to 1995! Don’t be afraid to delete the detritus to streamline your bookmarks and tabs. If this panics you, there are ways to export your bookmarks into a file before you purge them from your browser. Yes, you could painstakingly prune each bookmark individually, but let’s be honest. Who has time for that?
  3. Use a read later app – Instead of loading up dozens of news stories into tabs, I like to send articles I want to read later to Pocket, a read later service. Then the articles appear on my Kobo ereader for later perusal, but they can appear just as easily in Pocket on the iPad. [Kindle]( https://amzn.to/2JPDFo2) users can use Instapaper for that purpose, too. Read all your news later, leaving no open tabs in your browser to distract you or clutter up your work environment. This has the added benefit of leaving no outdated bookmarks to prune through later.
  4. Segregate your browsing – I like to do my blog research on my iPhone. Writing research is left for my iPad. On my Mac’s browser, I keep only tabs that relate to my current project. Since I use iCloud, all bookmarks and pages are shared, so the segregation isn’t as hard core as it sounds. However, keeping a theme for each device helps me be more organized. Another way to accomplish the same thing is to use different browsers for your different projects. This can help you manage the clutter and keep important pages from being buried deep in your tabs. When I was researching my Pokémon book, I did all my work in a separate browser from the one I usually used. This made finding my research painless and productive. Segregating by browser or device is extra work at first, but once you get used to it, you will find the productivity benefits worth the effort.
  5. Browse in Privacy ModeI – One way to reduce open tabs is to develop the habit to browse in privacy mode, then delete the tabs when you are done. I realize that privacy mode is usually used for hinky sites you don’t want anybody but your ISP to know about, but you can use this feature for other purposes. I prefer to use the [Brave browser](https://brave.com) for this purpose. It never saves privacy tabs. This is perfect for cruising around the web on a whim, but leaves nothing to clean up later. I used to try opening a different browser window for general web surfing to keep my work browser window clean, but I ended up with multiple windows with dozens of tabs in each. Using a browser that deletes its privacy tabs is much more efficient. 
  6. Prune your bookmarks in steps – The above tips help out with tabs, but what about all those bookmarks you created? We save bookmarks because we think we’ll need the link later, but how often do we visit them again? As the years pass, the website content may change, or the sites may go down. If you didn’t ever make time to prune them before, then you have hundreds, if not thousands, of bookmarks to manually go through now. It can be intimidating. Unfortunately, without organization, you have chaos. Three steps simplify the process:
    A. Make a backup of your bookmarks.
    B. Delete all but the most important.
    C. Prune the rest.

    When I come across a group of bookmarks that I can't bring myself to delete, I remove everything but them, then set aside small, daily blocks of time to prune what’s left. It’s dull, but necessary work. Little by little, you’ll turn your bookmarks graveyard into a bookmark resource library.
  7. Keep tab & bookmark names short - To cut down on visual noise, and to make bookmarks easier to scan, use short, succinct names. For example, “Kolleen’s Killer Kettle Korn” can be simplified to “🍿”. If your browser features bookmark favorites in a bar along the top, keep 10-15 favorites with one word names to make your favorites easier to visually scan. Although “Organizing ADH…” might be easy to figure out, longer website names such as “Sometimes the Si…” become cryptic. Shorter is better.

    Nice & Tidy Browser Tabs
  8. Prioritize your folders – When deciding which bookmarks to keep and which to delete, it helps to have a organizing framework. What subjects interest you the most? These should be your highest priority. Does it make sense to clutter your bookmarks with every ADHD whim over the past few years? Jot down a list of the subjects you research and refer to the most, make folders for them in your bookmarks, then delete everything that doesn’t fit into those folders.

My ToDo tabs and bookmarks are much more useful when I take time to prune and organize them. Since open tabs represent ToDo list items to me, each tab needs to be important and deserving of my time. About once to twice a year I prune my ToDo tabs to make them easy to access, visually accessible, and useful again.


  1. This article was based on an older article originally published on May 20, 2017.  ↩

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