This post is part of a larger attempt to share my personal “systems” that help me organize my life. By sharing my system, I hope to get feedback and inspire others to share as well.
The home screen, your virtual bedroom
In many ways, your phone’s home screen is your virtual bedroom. It’s a familiar, customized place you visit every day, matched to your interests and personality. Similar to a bedroom, I find it important to carefully curate and organize the home screen space for an appropriate atmosphere. For instance, sleeping next to a large chocolate bar at my bedrest doesn’t quite align with my sugar intake goals — but putting a book there can help encourage me to read more.
My iPhone home screen
Here’s my iPhone home screen, and a few ways I intentionally organize it.
Badges and Notifications OFF
I’ve been getting more into the Slow Web Movement, which is all about empowering you as the user to choose when to interact with the web, as opposed to the other way around. Therefore, I disable badging and notifications for most of my apps (you can do this in the Settings app). This way, I avoid getting notifications while I’m working or socializing, and can spend my time with the internet more intentionally. Don’t let your app notifications and badges prevent you from your goals!
Badges are those little red circles with numbers in them that appear in the top right corner of an iOS app.
Out of sight, out of mind: putting most apps into an “Extras” folder
I’m also a big fan of minimalism (as evidenced by my article about how I only own 115 things). This minimalist style can be applied to the home screen by downloading only the apps you need. However, there are some apps that I rarely use but still want on my phone (e.g. Google Translate for when I travel, or Bitmoji which I have on my phone only to integrate with other apps). For these apps, I have a folder called “Extras” on a different screen of my iPhone that I rarely interact with.
On the other screen of my iPhone is where I put all non-removable iOS apps, and anything else I want out of sight (including the “Extras” folder).
My “Any time” folder
I keep a folder called “Any time” which means that I can (and should) access this folder any time I’d like. This folder has three apps that are aligned with my goals and encourage me to continue to learn and consume educational content.
- Feedly: I use this to read my RSS Feeds, which is described in more detail in my news organization system article.
- The Economist: I use this to read weekly The Economist editor’s picks.
- Kindle: I use this to read all my books. It’s a smooth, simple app that really helps me read on the go without carrying around another physical object. I’ve described my full reading system in another article. (For those curious, I’m currently reading and enjoying Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl)
My “Once a day” folder
This is a folder that I aim to only click once per day, so that I can stay focused on my goals and reduce distractions. It’s nice to section off these app together by my intended frequency of usage.
- Snapchat: I’ll usually check this in the evening to see what people have sent me and respond.
- Facebook: I actually do NOT have the Facebook app! This icon is a bookmark to the Safari webpage for Facebook.com, since I don’t want the Facebook app as a distraction on my phone. The Facebook.com mobile site drains less battery and has fewer features, therefore interfering less with my focus.
- NY Times Crossword: I love doing the free daily mini crosswords, as a quick less-than-five minute diversion. I put this app into the “Once a day” folder since there’s only one new crossword per day.
Apps worth mentioning
Beyond what I’ve described above, I have a couple favorite apps. My go-to app for everything is Inbox by Gmail, which I use to set reminders and filter incoming tasks (more on that here). Otherwise, I love using Trello’s mobile app as a simple and smooth way to organize and browse through some of my longer-term ideas and projects.
Lastly, I selected a library image for my iPhone home screen wallpaper, to inspire me to continue learning and reading! Here’s a link to that image.