There is a great internet meme that has been floating around for a while:
“My mind is like an internet browser. 17 tabs are open, 4 of them are frozen, and I don’t know where the music is coming from.”
I think of this meme whenever I am working with a client who has a lot of tabs open. These clients may also have multiple Word documents or Excel spreadsheets or PowerPoint presentations open and unsaved. They are also likely to have many e-mails in their Drafts folder.
When you start something on your computer and then don’t finish it — whether it’s a browser tab, a file, or a partially-written e-mail — it’s easy to lose track of what you were doing and what is still left to be done. This leads to inefficiency and duplication of effort.
One way to practice good computer hygiene is to close all of your windows and shut down your computer before you go to sleep. This ensures that you evaluate everything you left open during the day. If something is incomplete, make a note of it so that you can deal with it tomorrow or another day. You may think that leaving a tab or a file or a draft e-mail open will remind you to get it done, but there is too much visual noise on your computer screen and the result is overwhelm, not clarity.
The idea of turning off your computer may leave you in a panic. That is because you are under the illusion that by leaving your computer on and all of your windows open, you won’t lose track of anything. But here are some of the realities:
- By working on files and leaving them open, you run the risk of losing your latest changes because the files haven’t been saved. You also run the risk of having multiple versions of a file.
- By having a lot of unfinished e-mails in your Drafts folder, you run the risk of thinking you replied when you haven’t. You remember writing the reply but then you got distracted and never sent it, which is how it ended up in your Drafts.
- By keeping tabs open indefinitely because you don’t want to forget about a page you found, you run the risk of losing track of it completely. Better that you should save a bookmark of the page.
The more you have open on your computer, the slower your computer will run, and the more likely it will crash or hang up. Then you will be forced to reboot it and you will lose track of everything. You will have better control over your time and your work if you take control of your computer instead of leaving it to chance.
Leave yourself some winding-down time before shifting gears from one activity to another. Save your work with a name that will help you to remember what it is. A file name default like “Document1” is not going to be much use. A file name like “NYSCA Grant Application DRAFT 9-29-23” will make it much easier for you resume work on that document at a later date.
Look in your e-mail Drafts folder. Delete the old ones that you will never send. Look at the more recent ones and see if it’s still worth sending these (with an apology for the delay). Your goal should be to have NO drafts in that folder. Then it will be noticeable if it a number shows up next to the folder name. At the end of each day, make sure you clear those out, either by sending or deleting them.
Now, about those tabs. If you get into the habit of bookmarking pages you want to find again and then closing the tabs, you’ll be in much better shape. Your browser will let you organize your bookmarks into folders. You can rename the bookmark before saving it so that you can remember why you want to find it again.
Getting out of the habit of leaving everything open will be tough at first, but, like all other organizing habits, it will give you greater peace of mind.