Thursday, March 30, 2023

Kick off the new year with a screen cleaning

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Every now and then I like to go through a digital cleanse.

Sometimes that means completely unplugging and walking in the woods, like the weekend I spent camping Devil’s path in the Catskills last month. Other times, it means taking a break from notifications to walk around the neighborhood, usually listening to an audiobook. (Less frequently, an outage of Internet service provides unexpected peace of mind; thanks, Slack.)

Another of my favorite cleanups: rearranging my phone’s home screen. The start of a new year looks as good as any for this one, which is why I am sharing it with you now.

A screenshot of my phone’s home screen in January 2021.

You will notice the absence of the usual suspects – no email, no Google services, not social media. I have bypassed the majority of these apps to a cluttered secondary display. The less distractions the better.

My guiding principle has less to do with utility and more to do with aspiration. I want my phone to not necessarily reflect who I am, but who I strive to be.

It might sound hokey, but it’s based on a science. As James Clear walks home Atomic habits, a user manual for the human mind that I highly recommend, one of the most effective ways to push yourself into better routines is to create a new identity.

The person I want to be involves a combination of health (Peloton, Health app), education (Duolingo, Libby), and efficiency (, Dashlane). I prefer Mozilla Firefox’s Focus web browser to, say, Google Chrome, for its enhanced privacy features. The weather and calendar widgets are mostly self-explanatory and offer useful information at a glance.

Cleans up like this apps reorganization job. I have followed a 728 day Mandarin learning sequence since my move Duolingo on my home screen. Dashlane now stores over 300 of my passwords – all strings of random letters, numbers, and symbols – without a headache. I read – or rather listened to – two dozen books last year, the majority by Libby. (Currently I consume Dark forest by Liu Cixin, the second book of his Remembering Earth’s Past trilogy.) Someday, I swear I’ll have my daily average step count at 10,000. (There are about 7,000 now.)

What apps help you become who you want to be? I recommend ringing in 2021 by doubling down and placing them on your homescreen.

Robert hackett

Twitter: @rhhackett


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