One Week with One Tab

I didn't expect to learn so much from one computer program.

A week ago, I found a browser extension that limits the number of tabs you can have up at a time. If you set the limit to 10 tabs and try to open 11, it won’t open anything new. For those of you with 50+ tabs open right now, this is the solution.

Up for a challenge, I set the limit to one. If I try to open a new tab, it pops up for a split second and immediately disappears, preventing me from opening anything else.

There's a maxim that goes something like,

"If you can't do it with one monitor, you're not focused enough."

One tab (and one monitor) forces me to stay on-task. Before, I would open up Twitter to respond to a message, not because responding was urgent, but because I didn't want to face the difficult task of writing.

It also forces me to be intentional about my clicks. The other day, I spent an hour reading about polyphasic sleep. I wanted to click on all the extra links in the articles, but I couldn't. Instead, I took the time to finish the piece I was on before I moved to the next one.

It all comes down to focus. Using one tab is a test in being single-minded. If I've opened my email, it's the only thing on my plate. If I'm reading an article, there are no other things to distract me. One at a time.

I don't remember where I heard the story, but there's a proverb about a donkey between two pails of water. He looks to the first and wants to drink from it, but he sees another pail in the opposite direction.

He stands for a while between the two pails looking back and forth, trying to decide which to drink.

And then he dies of thirst.

Dedicating yourself to on one option, even when another is equally enticing—that's focus. You have to give up good ideas for great ideas. That's what's required to execute on great ideas in a brilliant way. Focus is sacrificial by nature.

How many things have you said no to?

And of those, how many did you want to say yes to? If you said no to things you didn't want to do in the first place, you didn’t sacrifice anything.

Sacrifice isn't a bad thing because everything comes with a cost. Turning down a promotion isn't so crazy when you think about the attention and stress a higher position might require. Plenty of people want to be wealthy like Warren Buffett, but do you want to do what he did to get there?

Focus goes a lot deeper than productivity apps and browser extensions. It's much more than finding a better task manager or journaling system, though those things are good, too. It's about focusing.

Take a look at your life's task right now and don't let anything else get in the way. Maybe it's to come home and focus on your children. Perhaps it's your spouse. Or your writing, drawing, dancing...anything.

That's your one browser tab. If I were there in front of you, I'd slap everything else out of your hand and tell you to stop opening new tabs. (In the friendliest way possible.) Stay on one until you've done what you need to do for the day. Only then can you move on to other things and make meaningful progress.