I got brutal and closed all the tabs I don’t use more than once a day, which left me with my Gmail, calendar, and two spreadsheets that I use constantly. Tabs only stayed open if they were things I was specifically using at the time. The difference was big. I felt clearer and much less likely to jump around and be distracted by other “exciting” things happening.
Then, I got even fancier. I realized that with my closed tabs, this actually opened me up to a problem: I now could see my inbox count showing in my tabs in Chrome. This.. is a bad thing. Any time the number changed, I had the urge to check my email, even when I was trying to focus. The super simple hack that took me way too long to find: Right click on the tab, and hit “Pin.” This reduces it to a tiny icon and hides the inbox count. BOOM! Huge change. (I also pinned the other 3 tabs I always have open, leaving my Chrome browser much cleaner and less distracting. Check it out:
I cannot stress how much this has helped me keep focused on the task at hand—like writing this article!
OK, this is a site about endurance training and healthy habits… so how does this metaphor play into training?
First, the practical: When I did this, I was less inclined to jump from task to task, so the single-tasking/single-mindedness actually gained me back some time, which freed me up to spend a little more time on the fun things like mini-stretch breaks, and made my “oh crap, I need to finish this workout faster” moments a bit less frequent. It’s amazing what a few minutes wasted in my inbox of feed reader can take out of my training time!
So, you may realize that closing tabs on your computer lets you focus more, which then allows you to have more time overall. And that is a healthy habit win!
Second, the figurative. We all have A LOT of tabs open in our brains at any given time. And it’s really, really helpful if, during your workout, you can have all of those other tabs closed so you can focus on doing the actual work you’re supposed to be doing, not thinking about laundry or that email you need to send. (This is why I had an Apple Watch for a while, since it allowed me to record voice memos on the go. You can set up Siri pretty well for this as well—while I like closing all tabs for a workout, I also hate losing great ideas, so getting them out of your head and recorded is really helpful for letting you close that tab and move on.)
The idea of multiple tabs can also apply to our training on a larger scale basis: We have a bad tendency to want to do way too much all the time. Sure, we love a varied training plan that supports cross-training, strength and mobility, but that doesn’t mean we think you should stack one training plan on top of another. (More on that here.) If you have a big scary goal coming up, that should be your focus—not a bunch of other open tabs (goals) in your brain!
Another quick hack: Use the Chrome extension “Dark New Tab” if you need a tab open in your browser that’s just a blank, so you don’t have to look at your inbox.
And yes, I sincerely believe that work/life productivity is super important for training, especially for busy athletes—if you’re snowed in by work and are super inefficient, it’s unlikely that you have time and headspace to devote to proper marathon prep!