Too Many Tabs: Let’s Overcome Overwhelm.


I am overwhelmed.

And frenetic.

With things I want to learn.

With things I want to do, launch, and be.

At any given time, I have a bajillion tabs open, despite having a full docket of things I want to read in my OneTab:

Screen shot 2013-06-20 at 8.10.00 AM

There is never a moment of quiet in my brain.  I listen to business podcasts or videos while I work on websites, I listen to design podcasts when I go for walks or clean the kitchen. I read work-related books before bed. I make lists and notes all day long of ideas and things to read. I am constantly having an inflow of information into my mind and ears and eyes.

It’s no wonder, really, that it took me a whopping two hours to fall asleep last night (usually I’m out in 5 minutes). My brain just kept buzzing with ideas and questions.

Why so obsessive?

I want to consume all of the knowledge in the world and be super successful at my business

Which, let’s be honest, that first part is impossible. It’s a good problem, but a self-sabotaging one. I can’t work on my business if I’m always learning about how to work on my business.

Here are four ways I’m dealing with the too-many-tabs syndrome:

1. Get real and just work

The idea that suddenly I’ll reach a saturation point and just be able to do it all perfectly – the business side, technical side, creative side – is just a fallacy. The most I’ve learned has been through experience. It’s sort of like cramming for an exam – you can never learn enough to ensure you will get 100% of a test. You just do the best you can, have confidence, and do it. 

Plus, in some ways, I’m sort of glad I’m so passionate about this. For so. many. years. my day job didn’t feel like it. Like that thing you’re meant to do; where your passions meets someone else’s need and all dreamy stuff I never thought would be a part of my life. I am so excited every day to learn more. I just have to take control of my learning and not let it control me.

2. Find quiet.

For me, that has been on my runs. Normally another time I squeeze a little more learning (business podcasts!) in, I listened to nothing for a 5-mile run this week. Turns out my brain had enough going on to keep me busy. I also love reading novels and find that a great departure from the rest of my day spent consuming information. Reading a novel is so consuming you forget about the other stuff you consumed. (Um, I just used “consume” three times in 16 words. It’s ALL-CONSUMING.) Also, writing. Writing is like quiet for me.

The quiet is where the ideas and learning have an opportunity to germinate and bloom. If I’m always consuming or producing, I never have time to be intentional about it.

3. Stop comparing.

Some people are better than me. Some people are worse than me. Neither should affect the way I feel about my own business. Instead of feeling intimated and discouraged by the better ones and feeling frustrated by the worse ones, I just need to focus on me and my story.  Maybe I need to reread this post about keeping my eyes in my own lane. Will I never learn?

4. Social media boundaries.

For me, this means staying off Pinterest and not trying to keep up with Twitter. Pinterest is a great resource for some people, but for me it’s just too much. Clearly I have enough sources of inspiration and things I want to read, I don’t need one more spot to store and forget articles I want read!

Twitter, my first social media love, is a wonderful place. But I cannot keep up. And the constant stream of information from the 400 people I follow only makes the quiet harder to find. It’s like I have 400 people’s thoughts running through my head when I read it. So, I pop in a few times a day, but don’t try to read everything that everyone has said.

I feel a little guilty not keeping up, but I made a list of my top five priorities and try to make my actions in line with those priorities. I care about running and work? Then I’d better show it by spending time on those things.

And now I’m off to run and find some quiet!

Tell me, how do you manage the overwhelm? I want to learn from your ways. Or am I the only person that is crazy like this? Please tell me I’m not.

About Ashley

Ashley is a web designer, mother, and social media addict. She blogs about her attempts to live more simply and pursuing happiness while juggling a job she loves and life with two adorable sons and an academic husband.


  1. OMG, you are not not not the only one, at all! I’m actually planning on stealing a few of your tips, like not being obsessed with seeing EVERY update on twitter and using one tab. for me, i just remind myself that everyone has their own path, and if i can feel good about where i am on mine, i am doing it right. since i’m juggling a day job and a side business, i also try to make sure that i do at least one thing every day, even if it’s small, to further my side business. even if it’s just to make a list or send a tweet, the constant momentum really helps. also, i step away, breathe, and try to take in how lucky i am to have a chance to do this at all. oh! also, i am a to do list freak and vary between and teuxdeux to keep track of what i have going on, and trello for project management. :)
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  2. I know EXACTLY how you feel. I’ve also had to drastically cut back on my Twitter time lately. I’ve found that listening to white noise while I work has helped enormously, as does running in silence.
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    it’s called being a woman.
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  4. My big one is not comparing myself, followed by social media boundaries at a close second. I think also, I have to work on giving myself grace and realizing that I’m not going to solve all the world’s problems in one day. Sometimes my added pressure causes me to feel unnecessarily overwhelmed.
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  5. I most definitely do not read all of the twitter updates from the people I follow and I admit that I skip Twitter a lot on some days because it seems to be more of the same (as in, the same information over and over again). I do use it to share when I blog as I know that’s how some people keep track of new posts, but otherwise, well, that’s about it. I don’t know when I stopped loving Twitter so much. I blame Instagram for that.

    I have been taking jack on a block walk before bed each night; it helps him to get some more exercise and it helps me to calm down and clear my mind, take in the beauty of the moon, the sky, the trees, etc. Exercising also totally clears my mind, as does, oddly enough, cooking and baking =)
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  6. I agree. I gave up on keeping up with Twitter folks. Too much! Actually, I gave up on facebook and blogs and all of that, too. I don’t do Pinterest (I hate it), but tumblr’s been sucking me in. I manage by not looking at social media after about 5pm, but I think I might just limit myself to morning and lunch break.

    • I try to not check Twitter on Sundays, but that’s the extent of my actual boundaries.

      Oh! And I have a distraction blocker on my browser. But I know how to get around it, so THAT doesn’t always work. I’m so bad.

  7. This post could have come out of my brain. I am so overwhelmed right now between freelancing, the day job, trying not to be a horrible mom, and doing just enough housework to get by. I feel guilty even taking a second for myself. I don’t know the answer, but I do know that you’re not alone!
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  8. Not to give you *more* knowledge to consume, but I think you’d find Be Excellent at Anything helpful. It’s mostly about making the most of your body’s energy, not multitasking, not getting bogged down with email (or maybe in your case social media), and getting better results from everything you do. Instead of being about growing your business, it’s more about growing yourself and feeling your best at all times.

  9. Its funny, I was just thinking of your post today as I was going through homeschooling materials for my oldest.

    We’re starting kinder in a few weeks for Johnny and I’m starting to get the “too many tabs open” overwhelmed feeling as I read through all these “how to homeschool,” “how to organize,” “how to form young minds and hearts” articles and essays and I remembered your post. I need to stop reading about it and just do it. And, i mean I will and it will be fine and good but I need to remember that the “doing” of it is whats going to accomplish something, not just the reading about it and he’s only 5 and we have plenty of time so DEEPBREATHS, he’ll be fine! lol

    so thanks for posting about this :)
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    • Mike also relates to it with stuff about his PhD dissertation. It’s crazy how we all feel such similar things about such different situations.

      And yes, he is FIVE. So just the one-on-one education time is beneficial, even if he’s not learning Latin and Spanish! ;) Ha.

  10. I’ve been learning lately to just back off. I used to get stuck in these loops where I’d read all of my blogs and read the latest stuff on Twitter, Facebook, etc… and then sit there and just refresh things and waste so much time. Now when I’m done, I shut the laptop and walk away and do something else.
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    • YES! I’ve been in that loop. And afterward, I feel so disappointed in myself for wasting time! I’d rather life than constantly refresh!

  11. I can relate to this, 100%! I’m definitely going to have to try out some of these tips- these days I feel like I’m all over the place!
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  12. There’s a reason I use the windows as a metaphor for the way my brain works. I hear you.

    I only use Pinterest to keep track of what I like. I search for things or make boards, but I really don’t care that much about what most others post. Once in a rare while, I’ll review folks’ posts, but we all have our different things that we like, and that’s okay.

    Twitter! I am constantly curating my follow list so that most of the posts are things which are relevant to me. But tabs? I will go through twenty twitter posts and right-click/new tab about 9 posts. It’s a really easy and convenient way to search out new and interesting content, but it’s utterly impossible to pretend to keep up, and it makes me feel anxious when I haven’t gotten to the bottom of the 20 new posts before there are 15 new ones.

    I have taken social-media vacations (gave up FB/Twitter for Lent in 2012) and really enjoyed the break. Some nights I break the habit and leave the laptop closed. It’s amazing how easily technology encroaches on my goals, whether cleaning or reading. Something to work on!

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