Multitasking using tabs in your memory

When we work in a browser we open many tabs. Different people will use different portfolios of tabs and windows. The thing is, we do not do this in our own heads when we multitask. And this can be fixed.

Tabs vs windows when browsing

Some people have many tabs, some have many windows and I have both. I am not kidding, I have tab statistics add-on, and my tab count in all windows is between 200 and 900 depending on my activity.

I open tabs and keep them on for several reasons:

  1. I do want to control context switches. If I have an interesting link I open it for later, but do not jump to it. These tabs multiply. Other tabs stay unchanged.
  2. Mail, social media, and messaging are either almost always off (linked in) or almost always on (slack). If I am available, I want to tab to be active.
  3. Quite often I remember the service I need, but not the keywords to find it. So it makes sense to keep the tab open. This usually happens at work.
  4. Once I logged into a service that I need to check every couple of hours, I want to keep it on to reduce authorization processes.

I open multiple windows for different purposes:

  1. I have two related tabs and I want to copy and paste information between them.
  2. There are things I do all the time, like adding notes to my reading diary or processing items in my to-do list. I keep these processes in easy reach.
  3. I do not like having more than 140 tabs in a window. It gets slower, and if by mistake it closes – opening it is a headache.
  4. There are tabs I want to address “another day”. I keep them away from my work.

Why browsing is the perfect example of multitasking

There are several perfect examples of multitasking, like preparing several dishes for a meal for a family and guests, or watching TV while playing casual gaming on a mobile device and dealing with some emotional issues. Browsing on multiple sites is yet another perfect example of multitasking all of us do.

What makes browsing interesting is the amount of information we process while doing it. If we read a complex article, a patent, or bookkeeping all the relevant details as a context for further reading is a must. Opening any book in the middle we are likely to be very puzzled by what we see.

How do we keep tabs in our minds?

When we multitask we switch contexts. However, nobody tells us how to switch the context. If we keep the anchor marker for a different context in the corner of the visual field as a small icon, the whole context will not disappear. Consider it a tab. I could never hold more than 4 or 5 of such tabs (one active, 4 awaiting in the corners).  In theory, more are possible, I just could never handle more myself.

Next, we can have several visual “windows”. For example, I can have several open subjects in the kitchen, in the office, and in the living room. This dresses up very well on mental palaces with 4 PAOs in the corners. Simply going from one place to another I can switch the entire context with all of its markers.

I am not saying that this is the best way, or that I learned it from some guru. All I am saying: it works for me, and works well.

Main limitation

The main limitation of this method is synchronization. In theory, it is possible to switch on and off every tab in every window. Practically, once all 4 corners are busy, I cannot load any new processes. I need to wait till at least 3 processes end and then open a new window. We have something similar in mental palaces. Once the PAOs are in the corners and mindmaps are on the walls, we cannot move them around. The mental effort makes the whole operation more costly than building an entirely new mental palace.

Background processes

This trick has another strange quality. Even when the context is awaiting, it is still being processed subconsciously. We have something similar in computers. We can start playing a video in one tab and move to another. The video will continue playing. This is the reason the contexts are alive and load so well: they keep working even when we are not aware of that.

This means that when we reload a context it may load very fast, but may look not the way we left it. Details may appear or disappear, associative connections may be created. Usually, only good things happen.

There is a toll for this background processing. It takes away computational resources. When we multitask we get tired faster, are somewhat slower and our IQ is lower. So some tasks simply should not be multitasking.

KPI for each tab

Since some tasks are running in the background we can visualize the key performance indicators for those tasks. For example, if there is food in a stove we may keep track of how much time it should stay there. Or if we count money from several revenue sources we can keep the aggregate amount for each source. Usually, KPIs are not added for very complex tasks. That would be a lot of effort for our poor brains.

Creative subconscious thinking

There is a reason for great scientists having their best ideas in strange locations. Archimedes had some of his best ideas in a bath, and Einstein used to draw great ideas on a napkin. Many people report getting their best ideas in their bed – either sleeping or very close to sleeping.

The background tasks that we did not finish during the day may continue working obsessively. They may come to a resolution. When we are stressed or focused, these great ideas simply do not surface. However, once we relax, the finished background tasks resurface and we might be amazed by the results.

The unconscious processing is usually more creative than conscious activities. There are several theories explaining this, but I do not find any of these theories good enough to mention here. This just happens.

The visualization recipe is simple

You may ask me how I create and move around these mental tabs. I use something very similar to drag-and-drop on the computer screen, only I do it in my mental palace mimicking my current space. The rooms are fixed. The corners are fixed, and I simply place the relevant PAOs or palaces or anchor markers in the corners. If I make a progress along the relevant itinerary, I place the latest visualization as a pointer near the anchor marker, as a KPI. This way I know where I should return.

Loading a new window is like going into a new room of the mental palace. Since the mental palace is the physical working environment, I may add another dimension for “sliding”, usually up or down. Then I can have several visual views of the same room.





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