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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.

Simple tips to declutter your phone and be more productive with your time.

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 πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ˜‰

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. πŸ™

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?

5 Important Steps to Reduce the Time you Spend on your Phone Click to Tweet

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?

Want to declutter your phone? Would you like to digitally pare down the number of apps you have and how often you tend to check your phone? This step by step tutorial will help. #iosApps #AndroidApps #DigitalDetox

I do hope these tips come in handy. Let me know in the comments.

Shailaja V

Hi there! I'm Shailaja Vishwanath, a blogger with 12 years of blogging experience and a parent to a teen. I work as a digital marketing and social media consultant. From positive parenting tips to useful productivity hacks, social media advice to blogging advice, you'll find them all right here. Welcome to my blog.


Shilpa Gupte · February 18, 2019 at 8:49 pm

I reduced the number of apps based on the last quadrant you have shown above. I didn’t even know why those apps were on my phone! So, when I told you I had 12 apps on my phone, I hadn’t counted those coz I don’t use those.
The 12 apps I use are those I use only for work–blogging, sharing artwork, creating images for Pinterest that can be directly uploaded to my blog from the album. So, when I work on Pinterest, I use Canva and Pixabay, so my work gets done faster. However, I use the laptop more often for that purpose.
The time I spend on Instagram has reduced drastically ever since I set its timer to 15 minutes. So, in the entire day, I am on Instagram for just 15 minutes. As soon as the timer tells me 15 minutes are up, I vanish from that platform. I use FB to share my artwork to my art page, and am on this app for about 15 minutes or so, as these days I find it rather boring. And, ever since I began working on Pinterest, FB has slipped down on my Priority List for apps! πŸ˜›
In short, my phone usage has really reduced a lot, my time management has improved as has my productivity and it feels good the amount of work I am able to complete everyday thanks to the time I am away from the phone.
Feels so so good! πŸ™‚
Thanks to YOU and your inspirational words! <3
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Rajlakshmi · February 19, 2019 at 3:00 am

Hey I did good on apps count. 60 plus 8 google apps. But I can get right of a few as at least 5 of them are language learning apps, which I haven’t opened in two months. Hah I am always being so ambitious. This is an excellent exercise. My phone does need decluttering, now that I find it hard to even find something. Step no 2 is great… Asking the question can stop us right there. Thank you for this post Shailaja
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Anshu Bhojnagarwala · February 19, 2019 at 1:17 pm

Shailaja, interesting, in the morning my daughter told me she has 22 apps of hers downloaded on my phone. Just imagine if she has 22, how many I would have of mine alone, though on a regular basis I use only Insta, What’s App, Facebook, Gmail, Keep Notes and Photo Gallery. From time to time, both my daughter and I sit together and delete the apps that she has outgrown and I delete the ones which I don’t think are useful to me.

Though I know apps don’t actually increase the weight of the phone, but my phone does feel lighter on the day I declutter my phone. Actually, it’s the weight of the pressure that pops off my head. LOL!

Modern Gypsy · February 19, 2019 at 4:37 pm

I used to have a serious number of apps on my phone until a couple of years ago. When I changed my phone the last time, I made a very conscious decision to be very mindful about the apps I download and use. As of now, I have around 30 apps, and all are important and used frequently or occasionally.
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Fernando · February 20, 2019 at 1:54 am

Nice Tip, I still “under control” with the quantity of apps but and I’m definitely spending a lot of time overusing my smartphone.
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Anamika Agnihotri · February 20, 2019 at 10:37 pm

Those were good tips to declutter the smartphone. Some time back, I installed the app ‘Quality time’ for tracking the time spent on phone which I basically use to track the time D uses my phone to play his game or do his research on Google. His knowing that mummy will know is working well. I am not active on social media these days except for blogs sharing thus the phone is not of much use now.
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Obsessivemom · February 26, 2019 at 12:42 pm

I don’t have any apps from the third or fourth quadrant but I have realised I spend a huge amount of time on FB and Twitter. Often that is out of sheer boredom when I’m waiting for something. So now I keep a Kindle or a book handy and my reading time has gone up with the phone time coming down – that’s a win win. I would never have thought of removing the email option.
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