Browser Tabs Are Ruining Your Brain

Here’s what to do about it

Angela Lashbrook
Published in
8 min readMar 6, 2019


Image: Lefler/iStock/Getty Images Plus

In Microprocessing, columnist Angela Lashbrook aims to improve your relationship with technology every week. Microprocessing goes deep on the little things that define your online life today, to give you a better tomorrow.

TThe state of your browser is like the state of your kitchen: If the counters are cluttered with pots, pans, and dirty dishes, it’s going to be significantly more difficult to cook dinner than if you were getting started in a clean and tidy space.

Research has found that a browser with so many tabs that you can barely see the favicons is a stressful, productivity-killing time suck. One study from 2014 analyzed how poorly-organized computer screens affected physicians’ response times and productivity in emergency rooms. It found that cluttered screens increased the time it took for doctors to find medical records as well as how long it took to scan and identify needed information within those records. If a doctor was already stressed, the negative effects became even more pronounced.

Most of us, of course, are not doctors or nurses desperately attempting to sift through messy electronic medical records while a patient waits. But we still have often disorganized work lives in which timeliness is crucial — even if it’s just a report you have to turn in by 2 p.m. — and scanning through 50 tabs to find the one website that will help you complete your task is, frankly, a waste of time.

But, like your kitchen or desk, your browser doesn’t have to be messy. Several different tools and methods can help you keep a tidy, well-organized browser and stave off information overload.


If you’re in the market for a tab organizer that is easy to use and extremely no-frills, the browser extension OneTab is an excellent option. Its functionalities are limited but simple: When you click the browser extension, it automatically closes all your tabs…



Angela Lashbrook

I’m a columnist for OneZero, where I write about the intersection of health & tech. Also seen at Elemental, The Atlantic, VICE, and Vox. Brooklyn, NY.