I like minimalism in different ways – not just the ‘trendy’ lifestyle, but also as a design philosophy too. That extends to the tech I choose to use. One such item is the almost ubiquitous iPhone, in my case, the iPhone 12. I have the 128gb black model, and it’s a wonderful return to the classic design aesthetic that kicked off the iPhone 4 and 5, before the curved edges came into play. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the iPhone 6s Plus – so much so I ended up going through three of them before opting for an SE for years. But damage and wear meant it was becoming impractical to use so I renewed my contract and got the 12.
Aside from the minimalist aesthetic, I wanted to keep the apps to a minimum. For a long time, I failed miserably in this. My device had twitter open constantly, I’d read topic after topic on Reddit, Youtube was a companion late into the early morning hours, burning my eyes in my quest for the consumption of media. Heck, I even signed up to instagram on this device.
But it bothered me. Not always on a conscious level, but somewhere, deep in my mind I was aware that this was too much. Apple introduced Screen Time on their iOS devices, and also to the macOS platform too. Initially I was dismissive of this, because surely I could keep myself in control, right? Right??? Well, the answer was no, and I eventually started to experiment with the feature, and failed. In my addiction I kept overriding the limit, and would eventually give up. But I was going about this the wrong way. I needed to trim the apps down before looking at the limits. Surely that would be easier?
In some senses, yes I was right. But it still took a lot of experimentation before it all started to click with me. So here’s what I’ve done for me personally:
- Removed almost all social media apps. Nothing screams FOMO to me when my first instinct on picking up my phone is to check the social media apps. I realised as I removed a couple of them that I didn’t actually miss them, and whatever was SO IMPORTANT at the time could actually wait. The world doesn’t stop because I haven’t checked Facebook in the last ten minutes. I extended this to all my social media apps – I removed Twitter, Instagram (account deleted), Facebook, Reddit from my phone. I decided to do this in chunks – Removing Facebook and Instagram as they were the lesser used at the time, and then it became so much easier to remove Twitter and Reddit. I am now considering removing Youtube from it too – as a new habit of mine is to ditch the screens an hour before bed, so I’ll sit and read instead.
- Removed related apps. Without all the memes, gifs and emojis, I found I had no need to keep apps like Giphy, Imgur and the like on the phone. So they went too.
- Removed duplicate apps. I used to use both Met Office Weather and the built-in Weather app, but found the relative accuracy of the built-in app much more granular and reliable (considering I work outdoors, this is a positive feature), so I ditched Met Office Weather. Same for any other duplicate purpose app.
- Removed shopping apps. Nothing worse than being out and about and deciding to browse Amazon, Etsy, eBay for stuff. If it was something we needed to get, I’ll note it in my Bullet Journal and look it up when I get home. The amount of time that can elapse between being out at work and being asked to order supplies for the business and getting home is usually an hour at best. No need to shop online when I’m out. It can wait.
- Use a single screen. I placed everything into a single page with no folders (except one, but I’ll mention that later). In order to achieve this I opted to use the widget stack, enabling me to have a virtual rolodex of five of my commonly used apps. For me, these are: Music, Calendar, Autosleep (sleep tracking), Fitness and something else. The remainder was for the remainder of the apps in my device. This means I’m not hunting through screens for apps, or having to reorganise all the crap because I installed a new app. I don’t need any more new apps – most of the built in system ones work well for me.
Now I mentioned there was one exception for the folders to store apps, basically because I was running out of space for this arbitrary limit I had imposed upon myself. Now there may be some readers who will say “bUt YoU cOuLd GeT rId Of TwO mOrE aPpS”. Whilst this may be an easy and correct assumption, I had already whittled my apps down to those I would indeed be using. I had a couple of apps which are really more background operations, such as AdGuard, Lightning Detector, and the like. They are apps more driven as a background feature or used when a suitable notification occurs (lightning strikes within a certain mileage). I had a set of bills and expenses apps which I need on my phone, and opted to put these apps into their own folder. They’re apps I’ll use once a month or more, so I am personally justified in keeping them. By putting them in the folder I was able to hit my limit.
The end result? Well, the image above should tell you. It’s the only Home Screen I have, excepting the default built-in search and App Library screens. Everything I need on one page. And I top it all off with a beautiful colour gradient wallpaper that provides suitable vibrancy, interest and contrast to the app icons.
After this cleansing if you will, I was able to then look at the remaining apps and decide on screen time limits. And guess what? I didn’t need to do it – the screenshot should show why. I’m down 30% already. My screen time usage has been going on a downward trend, and will probably settle at a certain point. I have, however set some limits as an experiment in daily usage because of accessing the websites on my MacBook Pro, and this was where I needed to put my focus on minimising next. That’s another article for another time 😉.
I hope this article has helped in some way. My aim is not to say that my methods or processes are the “right way”, as I’ve had to discover a lot about myself and how I interact with my phone in order to get to the right place of minimising it’s place of importance in my life. Yes, my phone is important – clients could call and cancel or change times, I could receive messages likewise. Being able to call people to say I’m running late or will meet them in a certain place or time are valuable things that the phone can do for me. I can, at a push, respond to an urgent email or message. But I learned I don’t need to be checking every social media app afterwards, or staying up until 2am binge-watching YouTube and learning nothing of lasting value. Instead it’s become a tool that has its place, just like my MacBook Pro, or my Bullet Journal. These things have their set place and time and allow me to explore new avenues, read more books and to start enjoying film again. I’ve recently really fallen in love with the amazing style of Wes Anderson films, exploring the themes and concepts and cinematography that he has crafted. I would not have done so had I continued to be glued to my phone.
For those that may be interested, here is a complete list of all the app I have on my phone, and why:
- AdGuard – for a cleaner browsing experience. I also use this on my Mac.
- App Store – self explanatory.
- Autosleep – a sleep tracker liked to an app on my watch. I find it incredibly helpful to determine when I’ve not slept well as to what factors caused it. This app helps that.
- Banking App – Old bank account. Soon to be closed and this app will go bye-bye.
- BeMore – hearing aid controller application. I have twin hearing aids, and this sets my EQ and volume for different situations.
- Calculator – Stock app, use it a fair bit because I suck at maths
- Calendar – Synced via iCloud to my Mac, this is the workhorse of my working schedule.
- Camera – Well, duh.
- Clock – Time, Timer, Alarms are all essential to me. Stopwatch? Never use it.
- Compass – Stock app. Never use it.
- Contacts – I sync business and personal contacts here.
- Credit Card App – My credit card I have to consolidate my debts. Only here because I access statements
- DayCount – I use this to track an important date: The number of elapsed days since 27th January 2015, the day I stopped drinking. My “high score” as it were.
- Fasta – for logging the periods when I do Alternate Day Fasting
- Files – Stock app. Handy for storing downloaded documents on the go to sync to the Mac.
- Find My – Stock app.
- Fitness – Stock app.
- Health – Stock app. All my health data is in here. Everything from Fasta, Autosleep, Heartwatch, Weight Diary and my manual entries all consolidated here.I just wish I could view this stuff from the MacBook Pro.
- Heartwatch – Heart monitoring. More in depth than the Apple stock offering, it’s been very handy during the time I was on ADHD medication, amongst other things.
- Lightning Pro – As we look after pets, knowing if there’s a storm nearby means we can start to implement calming processes for dogs known to get anxious. Been very useful in the past.
- Mail – Default email app. I only really check a “Today” Smart Folder if I’m checking email out and about.
- Maps – Stock app.
- Measure – Stock app.
- Messages – default iMessage. Used a lot.
- Messenger – only use this for a handful of clients who seem to prefer this. Annoying otherwise.
- Music – Used a lot. My mobile deal includes Apple Music, which I subbed to before I got it bundled.
- My EE – Mobile Carrier app.
- MyCadence – A phenomenally expensive app at £0.49 per month. Gives me cadence readout on my stationary bike workouts.
- Notes – Stock app, used for jotting notes if I’m out.
- OVO Energy – Energy supplier.
- Paypal – Just to keep tabs on the account. As I don’t have shopping apps any more, I think this may well go.
- Phone – Come on, do you really want me to elaborate on this one?
- Photos – Where the camera dumps the pictures…
- Podcasts – I go through bouts of listening to podcasts from time to time.
- Reminders – Stock app.
- Safari – Default web browser. Does the job for me.
- Settings – Stock app.
- Signal – Messaging app to keep in touch with friends.
- Tapo – We have cameras installed to keep an eye on our doggy guests. This allows us to check in on them remotely.
- Translate – Stock app.
- TV – Stock app.
- Wallet – Stock app. I don’t use this, strangely.
- Watch – because I have an Apple Watch (Series 5 if you must know)
- Weather – excellent app. I ditched Met Office for this.
- Weight Diary – Great weight monitoring app, syncs to Health, provides goals and has trends based on entries. Used it for years.
- Youtube – Probably going to ditch this as barely use it on mobile now.
- 1Password – My go-to password manager.