I have been following an extended online discussion of the Arc browser, a Chromium-based web browser that people have hailed as revolutionary. When the discussion started, I was still using macOS as quite a bit (I have since completely transitioned to Linux, which Arc doesn’t currently support). Since people for whom I have a huge amount of respect seem to feel that Arc is truly superior to other browsers, I endeavored to figure out why, as it didn’t seem to me to do much more that just complicate my browsing experience. While Arc has a number of interesting little features (a miniature pop-up browser window, for example), what really sets Arc apart is the way it handles tabs.

I don’t do tabs.

Seriously, I just don’t. I had seen posts on the net with complaints such as “when I have more than seventy-five tabs open in Chrome, it uses 48 GB of memory.” I just assumed that people were joking. I didn’t even enable tabbed browsing (remember when it was an optional, opt-in feature?) for a long time after the world seemed to be running on tabs. I eventually gave in, but I find I get pretty anxious if I have more than a half-dozen or so tabs open. I start figuring out other ways to corral the information those tabs provide so that I can get down to a manageable number (two or fewer, ideally).

Too many to-do lists.

Like making coffee, there are many ways to organize one’s life and tasks. What works for me might or might not work for other people and vice-versa. I do not want to imply that people who like tabs are wrong in any way. But life with lots of tabs absolutely does not work for me. I have tried. It doesn’t work. For me, tabs become yet another to-do list. I already have enough to-do lists in my life.

To-do lists:

  • electronic checklists
  • email inbox
  • desktop files
  • browser tabs
  • that formerly vacant bit of desk space next to my mouse
  • tools and components on my workbench
  • the chalkboard in the kitchen
  • voicemail queue

(Some things must never be to-do lists. If you leave something on my desk chair or keyboard, it will forever be tainted in my view and risks being approached with malicious compliance. If you ask me to do something when we’re passing in the halls, and you don’t see me write it down, you can safely assume I won’t remember it no matter how sincerely I might look you in the eyes and nod.)

My brain, perhaps as a result of some neuro-atypicality, goes quickly into overload when I have too many lists to deal with. To me, one of the prime advantages of having a to-do list is that it puts everything in one place so I can sort, prioritize, choose, ignore, procrastinate, divert myself, or what-have-you. I’ve also noticed that if I have too many lists, and one list has a particularly odious task on it, I will start ignoring that entire list so the other items on it get neglected.

Clearing off my desk or workbench, emptying my email inbox, or nuking my browser tabs become an exercise in moving all those things into the One Great Unified To-Do List, which these days is a Standard Notes checklist. Once everything is on that list, even if the size of the list makes it overwhelming, I can calmly approach it and start getting things checked off in some semblance of priority order.


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