I’ll show you mine if you show me yours
That’s how many icons are currently displayed on my iPhone X as pictured below. It sounds like a lot, but it represents three focused app purges in the last 60 days. It actually feels lighter and more focused.
You might be laughing at me right now. Me, a minimalist with 59 apps on my smartphone. That includes the apps inside the folders that appear above. Yes, it certainly sounds untrue, right? 59 icons? Yikes!
Question: Have you ever taken the time to count the icons on your smartphone that represents individual apps?
Please do so. I think you’ll be shocked at how many apps you’ve downloaded over the years. You probably bypass dozens of seldom-used apps every day as you scroll laterally across the pages of your smartphone. They slowly add up as we adopt new technologies and upgrade our devices wherein seamless upgrades transfer all our date from phone to phone.
The Digital Declutter
I’m reading Cal Newport’s book, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World. Early in the book, he issues a challenge to readers to perform a digital declutter on their devices and remove or stop using technologies that prevent them from focusing on actual life.
When I decided to take an honest look at the technologies (apps) that I’d accumulated over the years, I made it a priority to confront the return on my investment (ROI) for each of the apps.
The result: more than a few of my favorite apps met the chopping block.
For example, I really like Twitter as a social media platform. I love the brevity of language that it demands and the ability to magnify tweets that resonate with my point of view in the form of retweets.
Unfortunately, the return on my Twitter investment in terms of benefits other than just enjoyment has been close to zero. Even though I tweet links to my new blogs essays, and retweet the tweets of others that I follow and admire, I can’t trace a single subscriber to my sites that came from Twitter.
My follower count has never broken 500 and although I enjoy the Twitter experience, based on an honest ROI evaluation, I had to call it a day.
I removed the app from my phone and decided to only access Twitter on my MacBook thereby dramatically decreasing my frequency of checking in on this social media platform.
I removed Instagram for the same reason, a poor return on the time I invest in the platform.
I also removed apps for The Washington Post, Apple News, Politico, and The Mercury News. As a news junkie, this wasn’t easy, but I seldom read the news outside of a subscription app for The New York Times.
What remains is equally important
A digital declutter is a healthy challenge and I think everyone can benefit from undertaking one. But just as important as the recognition and the choice to remove apps that no longer provide value to our lives, is what remains after a purge.
When you remove what is extraneous, what remains is what is what’s most important.
Although I removed many apps that no longer enhance the quality of my life, those I retained actually do just that.
Facebook made the cut and is still on my phone; It’s actually the platform I dislike the most for their questionable business practices and overall attitude of their leadership, yet Facebook yields a much higher ROI. It’s also the most effective platform for staying informed about what’s going on with my kids, and grandkids (sounds like a cliche, but it’s true). The ROI for Facebook, for me personally, is markedly better than other social media outlets.
I still have three coffee apps (Starbucks, Peet’s, and Philz) and two music apps (Spotify-premium and Apple Music-free). I retained eight travel apps (airlines, ride sharing, and hotels) as well as four financial apps for my bank and credit cards.
As far as my beloved news apps, I retained my subscription to The New York Times and the free version of The Guardian.
Of all the apps that I kept, a common thread seemed to connect them:
They contribute to a more intentional mode of living.
I’ve decided that this is the standard by which I’m going to judge all new technologies to determine if they find a home on my smartphone. If a new app doesn’t enhance my ability to live intentionally, it doesn’t find a home on my device.
Intentional living via technology
If you find yourself scrolling laterally through page after page of seldom used apps, you might ask if they’re still serving you and, if the answer is no, why you still have them.
- Do they help you live more intentionally?
- Do they reflect a curated choice or an impulse buy?
- Do you find yourself hesitant to delete an app because you might use it someday?
These are all signs that you need to let them go.
Try a digital declutter experiment and discover what’s most important for you.