A small note on how to close all tabs, achieve inbox zero, etc

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State of the Union

How were you able to change your ways? I have hundreds of tabs open, just as you did.
— @zoroasterisk

I have been tab-less for a month by now. (Update: half a year already.)

Having no state is awesome. Almost everything is "if—and only if—I want to look at X, I know where to find it". Haven't thought about how to handle todos yet, though.

I used to have hundreds of browser tabs pretty much constantly. then I was proud of reducing that to 20. Then—to five. But now I have zero tabs most of the time, and always zero by the end of the day.

How to close the tabs

Think about why you're scared to close the tabs.

  • I was afraid to give things up. Fixing this got me from 300 to 20 tabs.
  • I didn't have a reliable place for storing links/ideas/etc. Fixing that got me from 20 to 5.
  • Finally, consciously valuing statelessness, and seeing tabs as a mental burden—got me from 5 to 0. I will write about statelessness later.
Out of sight, out of mind.

Example: I am currently porting posts from my old blog to the new one. So I had my old blog open as a tab. To get rid of the tab, I added the blog in the "unported posts" section right there on this site.

And it will get done, eventually. Or never! Doesn't matter. Forcing myself to do things doesn't work and only creates misery.

Learning to give things up

Learning to give things up was pretty painful. I used to want to do everything that seemed like a good idea and was doable. I didn't know what I cared about, and so I was looking for lots and lots and lots of easy wins.

I was vaguely aware that "focus" was a valuable thing, but didn't believe it. I lived as if I would be able to eventually fix all imperfections I saw around me.

Things like Warren Buffett's "write 25 goals, circle top 5, the rest become AVOID AT ALL COSTS goals" weren't convincing enough. But eventually I did start slowly killing things. "I guess I will never write this library, and this.. is.. okay". It wasn't okay, though—it felt like betraying myself. But I killed one dream, then another one, then one more, and slowly it got easier.

(Yep, writing a tiny missing library actually did feel like an actual dream.)

Each decision to not pursue something I wanted to pursue felt like "growing up" in the worst possible sense. Like when you're a kid and you're told that one day you will wear a tie and apply for mortgage, willingly.

At some point I started feeling better about it. Still bad, but at the same time slightly proud. "You won't achieve anything without focus. my ability to give things up is a strength."

I would've still been miserable, though, if at the same time I hadn't also started figuring out what I was passionate about. It's easier to not crave easy wins, if you have things that a) you are passionate about and b) believe you can achieve.

I had things that were (a) but not (b)—founding a huge company, etc, and I had things that were (b) but not (a) but not both.

(Note: having complete order in one area doesn’t even remotely mean you can relax about other areas. possible to have zero tabs and still—a messy todo list.)

feels v related to storing notes as "todos" "I'll totally get around to using this at some point" -> "i can't do everything, but with notes i can pretend i will!"

"With notes I can pretend I will" is a coping mechanism for me. It works for reducing stress—put all tabs into a list and forget about it, etc. A good idea if you're feeling super bad. But doesn't address the underlying thing.

P.S. I just closed Notion and I'm happy

I've been using Notion as a todo list, self-management thing, idea bin, and a general-purpose storage place for probably a year.

Turns out that if something serves many purposes, it inevitably becomes a place full of anxiety.

(Case in point: email. Another case in point: browser tabs.)

In my case, the desire to control my life using Notion was messing with my ability to keep track of my life. Examples:

  • idea list: keep track
  • reading list: control
  • "what I'm currently interested in": keep track
  • "gotta make sure I keep making progress on my interests": control

If they all coexist—meh.

A huge topic for me recently is "your bins have to be as precise as possible, and ideally they should be separate". Notion was violating that, big time.