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Did you read last week’s post on how to declutter your social media presence? If yes, welcome to part 2 of the Digital Declutter series on the blog. Today we will tackle how to digitally declutter your phone and do it well, so that you only keep what you need and nothing more.
I’ve always wondered at the insidious pull of the smartphone and how it’s worked its way into our lives almost without our realising it. I didn’t even have a smartphone when my daughter was born, 12 years ago. My first actual smartphone was a HTC Legend in 2010. That’s just 9 years ago.
But it’s now become such an integral part of our lives, especially for those of us who are bloggers, entrepreneurs and who work in the digital space. Heck, it’s a permanent fixture in everyone’s hands and homes today. My own parents no longer have a landline.
Before we begin the declutter tips, I need to clarify that I have nothing against smartphones, technology or social media by themselves. They are wonderful tools and enable many of us to work remotely, monetize our content, conduct conferences and stay connected with each other.
But I do have a problem with the way most of us use it- as a means of distraction. Today’s post will talk about how we can work on decluttering the phone, in a way that will enable us to keep doing all the good things while staying away from the distractions.
Let’s begin by asking a few important questions about your smartphone. We will follow that up with practical solutions to each question
A) How many apps do you have on your phone?
B) How much time do you spend on your phone every single day?
C) Which apps take up most of your time daily?
A) How to categorise your apps
B) How to reduce your time spent on the phone
A) How many apps do you have on the phone?
I already did this as a test exercise on my Instagram page over the weekend. A lot of people responded, saying that it ranged from 6 apps to over 150!
Now, while that can be either very gratifying or scary the important thing to remember is that not all apps are created equal.
To begin, count the number of apps you have on your phone. This can take a while, so be sure to set aside at least 30 minutes for the exercise. For what it’s worth I started this exercise with 62 apps on mine 🙂 But I don’t use all of them the same way.
List every single app on the phone, even the system-related ones. Trust me, I have my reasons for this. 🙂
*Need a ready-made template to do this? Download it from my FREE Resource Library. Click the button below to sign up for it.Get Free Resources
Already part of my list? Click here to access the library.
Done? Now keep it aside. It’s time to move on to the next question.
B) How much time do you spend on the phone daily?
Ah, I can sense your discomfort right away. 😉
No judgment, don’t worry. Just be honest with yourself. Remember, this is a decluttering exercise, so it’s important to look at these questions.
You can calculate how much time you spend on your phone in one of two ways:
The good old-fashioned way, where you actually time yourself to see how many times you pick up your phone.
Or you can select a time-tracker app from this list and install that on your phone to check how often you open/use each application. My favourite one, not on the list above, is ‘StayFree- Phone Usage Tracker and Reminder’. I really love its simple interface.
Do this every day for a week, at least, to get a sense of two things:
i) How much time you are spending on the phone itself
ii) Which apps you tend to spend more time on
C) Which apps take up most of your time daily?
If you’re anything like me, my biggest chunks of time spent on the phone are split across 2 apps: Google Chrome and Instagram. Earlier, I had one more app too, but I will refer to that later in the post.
When you get the sense of which apps take up most of your time, it’s easy to get started on the solutions I outline below.
A) How to categorise your apps
If you’ve already downloaded the free template from my resource library, you’d know that I referred to 4 categories for your posts:
a) Necessary: These are apps you need on the phone- for work/interaction/ scheduling of content/ community.
b) Unnecessary: These are apps you can easily access without the phone.
c) Daily: These are apps you tend to access every single day on the phone.
d) Infrequent: These are apps you installed once and have barely ever checked afterwards.
When you’ve made the list of apps and slotted them into the various categories, classify the top apps according to the below quadrant.
*This is a sample of my own phone usage.
The next step to do is to start by deleting the apps that fall into the 4th quadrant: Unnecessary + Infrequent.
If you hardly ever use IGTV to record videos, chances are you’re not going to use it in the future either. Discard it. If I only use Canva for making collages, I don’t need a collage maker app to do the same task. Redundant? Delete it.
Now, look at quadrant 3. These apps are those that you don’t really need and yet use daily. The easiest question to ask is this: Is the app something you can access on your laptop? If yes, delete it.
Quadrant 2: Necessary but infrequent. These are all your banking, travel, technical apps. You don’t always need them but it’s handy to have them on the phone. Create a sub folder on the screen and move these apps there.
B) How to reduce time spent on the phone
Now it’s time to focus on quadrant 1: The Necessary apps that you check daily.
When you first started this exercise, I asked you to install a time-tracking app. You’d have noticed from that, which apps you tend to check daily and most frequently, correct?
In my case, those were Google Chrome, Instagram and E-mail. Together with other apps, they added up to almost 4 hours of phone time per day! I was shocked. 🙁
So the first thing I did was to check exactly what I was doing on each of these apps. I was using Chrome to log into my Facebook group and my Twitter channel, since I don’t use either app on the phone. Man, that took up time!
Similarly, Instagram? I was scrolling, commenting, liking, watching stories almost on endless loop. I was also checking e-mail every 30 minutes.
What did I do?
Step 1: The first thing I did was to think if I really needed all 3 apps. I needed Instagram, since I can’t reply to Direct Messages without it. Chrome again is my default browser. But e-mail? Surely I wasn’t expected to reply instantly to every e-mail, right?
So I removed the e-mail inbox from my phone and now check it on my laptop twice or thrice a day, at set times. That immediately did wonders to the time tracker!
Step 2: Every time, before I opened Chrome or Instagram I asked myself this question: Do I need to do this now or can it wait?
Invariably, the answer was the latter. So all it takes is a bit of conscious mindfulness to make this bit work.
Step 3: Each time you decide to install a new app on the phone, run it through the quadrant I created and checked to see which quadrant it falls under. That’s a good way to see if you really need the app or not.
Step 4: Turn off all app notifications. I mean it. Turn them off. I did this ages ago and that was my first step to ensuring I could do deep, focused work without distractions.
Step 5: Do something else instead of picking up the phone. It’s incredible how instantly we reach for our phones every time there is a queue we’re standing in or waiting for the bus. The next time you do that, pause and ask: Is this REALLY necessary?
I do hope these tips come in handy. Let me know in the comments.
Before you go, could I ask you for a tiny favour? If you really liked this post/ the tips/ the freebie, would you be able to share it on your social media channels like Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter? That would mean so much to me. 🙂
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