House Training my Phone

In my continuing attempt1 to manage distraction and facilitate focus, flow and occasionally “deep work,” I’ve been working on taming my phone.

First, I cleared the Home screen. This is what mine looks like:

I’ve moved all apps to one of three locations:

  1. The three most used apps for getting through the day (in my case, Todoist for tasks/lists, Bear for notes and Google Calendar) in the dock,
  2. A “Daily” folder with other critical apps I use daily that don’t present too many opportunities for going down rabbit-holes2, also in the dock,
  3. And all other apps on the second page, a few that I access routinely outside of folders, the rest in a combination of alphabetical and topical folders.

I very rarely access the second page because the apps there are either rarely used or because I want the “friction” of getting to them3 to act as a trigger for intentionality: that little bit of extra effort prompts me to consider if I am doing something necessary or just procrastinating.

I’ve also disabled almost all notifications and badge numbers. The only ones I leave on are notifications from people—Messages and Snapchat (which I only use to chat with my daughter)—and the Habitica app, which remind me of repetitive things I need to do every day.

This was an organizational system I’d been moving toward for a while, but I pulled the trigger when I discovered the “3D Touch” function on folders, which handily shows a synopsis of Badge notifications by app so I can tell if I have something important to respond to without burrowing:

That’s it.


  1. See my Facebook Reduction Plan. TL;DR: use lists, pages, the Messenger app/site and timed (or otherwise constrained) sessions.  

  2. Messages works here for me because I don’t text much and have chosen it as my one always–available stream for emergency communication at work (I only check in to email and Slack a few times each day). Other apps in this folder include Overcast for podcast listening, Habitica for positive habit forming, Headspace for daily meditation, 1Password for password management, Day One for (mostly photo) journaling, Notes for capturing things quickly with Siri, Airtable for recording my coffee brewing (yes, I geek out that way) and the Camera because I can never remember to access it by swiping up. 

  3. For this reason, the new iOS “feature” forcing me to type the whole name of an app when searching for it is actually a feature for me 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *