At some point, everybody has experienced being overwhelmed. There are so many things that could cause that feeling, I couldn’t name all of them if I sat here typing all day. But there is one thing that 90% of those things have in common: They’re out of our control.
Since there are so many things beyond our control that are taking up space in our minds, it’s incredibly important to make sure that the things that are within our control are as simple as possible. This way when something comes along that stresses us out, we have the mental strength to deal with it. To that end, one of the main things that I believe can be very easily simplified is your phone.
Our phones are huge parts of our lives. People tend to have their phones with them at all times, some using them to run nearly every aspect of their lives. Even with all of that phone usage, most people barely think about how their phone is set up, or worse, they don’t think about it at all.
We’ve all been there. Maybe it’s yours, maybe it’s your friend’s or parents, but you’ve seen that home screen. You know the one, the one with the color vomit background and 1,000 apps with 500 app badges, all spread out over 10 home screen pages. I spent 10 minutes making my phone look as bad as I possibly could, and it saddens me to say this is nowhere near the worst home screen I’ve ever seen:
Step 1: Too Many Notifications
The first, and one of the easiest, steps is to turn off notifications that you don’t need to see. Let’s be real, do you need that app badge on the Netflix app? Do you really think seeing an app badge on a game is the best use of your brain power? Every time you see those unnecessary app badges your brain takes a split second to go through the motion of remembering what that means and deciding it’s unimportant. That happens every time. So ditch those unimportant notifications.
To do this go into your Settings app and then go into Notifications
When in notifications, select an app, and then select either no notifications or customize the type of notifications you get.
Go through every app you have (deleting some along the way if you want). The only apps that should be allowed to give you notifications are apps that are actually important. If you get a notification from an app, you should immediately want to view it (text messages, social media, or important emails) or it should convey some important information (think banking apps and things like that). Realistically, there should be less than 40 apps on your phone that are allowed to give you notifications, and less than 15 that actually give you notifications on a daily basis.
As you’re going through this, if you have notifications that actually are important, go ahead and check them. The goal is to have as few app badges as possible either through disabling notifications or through dismissing them.
It’s starting to look better already!
Note: Email in particular can be tricky. If you’re having trouble getting to Inbox Zero check out my previous blog post on how to clean up your email app.
Step 2: Condense
The next step is one of the most important. Now it’s time to condense everything on your phone to one page. If you’re spending time scrolling through multiple pages to look for a specific app you’re wasting your time. If it takes you a few seconds every time, and you do that 20 times a day, you’re losing minutes and brain power every single day that could be better spent on more important things.
The best format I’ve found for this that both works and is aesthetically pleasing is to have 4 folders and 8 apps on one page. Those numbers can be adjusted, but I like to go in multiple of fours so the rows I use are full. You don’t want dangling apps on your home screen.
This is one of the most time consuming steps, but also very worth it. The first step is to think about the apps that you use more than once every single day. There’s a solid chance that it’s less than 8, if it’s more that’s fine, go to 12. Or make the sacrifice and put some in folders.
The next step is to condense all of the other apps into 4 folders. The best way I’ve found to do that is to have 3 themed folders (mine are “Games”, “Health”, and “Finance”), and then have one catch-all folder for all of the other apps. It doesn’t actually matter how may apps you stick in a folder, because the goal is to never actually open those folders. Any app that isn’t on your home screen is just a spotlight search away.
What’s really important?
Think about things that have convenient shortcuts. You don’t need your camera app on your home screen because you can just swipe from your lock screen or go into control center to get there. An app that I realized I never used was my phone (I prefer to text), so I recently took it off my home screen for the first time since the original iPhone.
Step 3: Ditch The Distraction
I’ve done a lot of clean up on my phone so far, everything is on one screen and I’ve taken control of my notifications, so why does it still feel like my phone is so… busy?
The answer is a simple one, and you’ll be amazed at what this one small change can do. Change your wallpaper. Chose one with some empty space or a pattern that isn’t too distracting. I’m a big coffee fan so I’ve gone with this wallpaper. It shows something I love at the bottom while leaving the top free from anything that will distract me when looking at my apps.
A few weeks using this and you’ll never want to go back to the old way. You will never have to look for an app again, because it’s either on your home screen or you can do a spotlight search to find it immediately. Some people say searching is a hassle, but let’s be honest. It isn’t actually take more time than it took you to swipe through your home screen pages and look for apps before, and it’s a lot better looking.
Bonus Step: Aesthetic Choices
Why do we need folder names? You know what’s in them, and if you’re doing this correctly you will likely never open those folders again. So get rid of those names. Unfortunately Apple won’t let you have folders with no names, but if you copy this invisible unicode symbol and delete the quotes you will have what appear to be nameless folders:
Folder Front Pages:
If you look at my folders they all have different amounts of apps on the front page. Let’s make that a bit more uniform. I know a lot of people like 1 app on the front page of their folder, I think 3 looks better, but it’s up to you to decide how many you want.
Apps In The Dock:
This is one of the least important changes, but I really like the feel it gives my phone. All I’ve done is moved 1 app out of dock into a folder, so that now I only have 3 apps in my dock.
And there you have it!
It may take some getting used to, but once you get used to using spotlight search to find apps that aren’t on your home screen or automating common actions that eliminate the need for certain apps to be front and center, I know you’ll enjoy the peace of mind having an organized phone will bring you.
Be sure to comment below or tweet me photos @efficient_edu of your before and afters on your phone!