400 words #012: change your tools

Last weekend I changed the web browser I use.

Now this probably doesn’t really sound like a particularly good topic for a blog post but bear with me!

For years I, like many of you, have used Google’s Chrome browser.

For the past year or so it has become increasingly slow, buggy and annoying. But, even though I spend the vast majority of my working day using it, it seemed like too much effort to change. Humans are creatures of habit and I’m no exception.

Last week it became almost unusable and GMail stopped working properly, which seemed like the final straw. So I switched (to Mozilla’s Firefox in case you’re interested).

It has been curious to reflect on the impact that simple change has made on my day-to-day productivity.

I have numerous bad habits when it comes to my web browser usage, the worst one being that I often had 50+ tabs open.

So many that even the fav icons (the little icon that indicates which site the tab is showing a page from) disappeared, which made returning to the correct tab a fun (read: incredibly frustrating) game.

This habit, whilst well-intentioned (“oh that could be interesting/important, I’ll leave that open and read/respond to it later”), actually ended up fragmenting my attention and focus to such a degree that I wasn’t really being particularly productive.

Because Firefox doesn’t ‘shrink’ the size of tabs based on how many you open (it has a scrollable bar when you have too many tabs to fit within the visible area) I find I have far fewer tabs open at any one time which has already insitgated a shift in how I engage with tasks and content (in short, I am much more focused, or at least it feels like I am).

The low-level anxiety that came with having innumerable tabs open (lots of things that were jostling to be returned to, read and responded to or digested) has gone.

This has been one of the most surprising benefits of making that one small change. I suspect there is a lesson here about prioritisation, focus, digital attention spans and more. And that there are likely many other aspects of my day-to-day habits that could do with similar tweaks.

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