This post follows on from my last titled ‘My MacOS Setup Guide for Digital Minimalists’. I found writing my last post highly beneficial in gaining clarity around my own Mac use, so thought it would be beneficial to do the same exercise across iOS.
As the smart phone has become a constant companion for most of us, it is even more crucial to effectively manage its use. A smart phone is an amazing tool and can make life easier and more productive, but if its use is eight hours a day scrolling subreddits and social accounts, that is not a good thing.
We’ve all been there, we’ve all spent too much time mindlessly scrolling content and websites knowing it does’t make use feel good, yet we still do it. We do it because it’s the path of least resistance to feeling like we are being ‘busy’. In actual fact, the activity just drains energy and more likely creates a chronic anxiety from putting off that thing that we should be doing. Once again, not a good thing.
Every-time we consume content, our lives and time are literally feeding the attention economy. We are trading our lives and lining the pockets of the rich, without even being aware of it. Unlike a job, we get nothing for our time traded.
Smart phones are useful, but we need to be the ones dictating its use, not the other why round.
Like my previous post for MacOS, this post will explain my current iOS setup from a perspective of digital minimalism that works for me but might be different for you.
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Part One: Lock Screen
The lock screen is like the gateway drug to smartphone addiction. Unassuming on the surface, but can very easily lead to the substance abuse that is, content (over)consumption. From the lock screen, each hit comes in the form of Notifications, every ping releasing that dopamine we all can’t see to get enough of.
In and of itself the lock screen can’t be a distraction, but Notifications must be addressed in order to regain control of our digital lives. As you’ll see from the image above, my background image is one of the stock images provided by Apple. No time spent.
Part Two: Home Screen
My home screen contains one app. The Drafts app. This is the only app I need to see and the only app I may need to access quickly from the home screen.
As the majority of any significant work is done on my Mac, outside of communication, I mainly use my iPhone for capturing tasks, ideas and thoughts that I can process at a later date, and the Drafts app is perfect for that. If I find myself needing to work on my phone, it just proves I haven’t planned my day properly and didn’t get done the things I should have in the time I allocated.
I find the issue with Home Screen setups that most have at the moment, is that they are in their very design made for distraction. It’s almost impossible to be intentional if as soon as you unlock your device, you have 100 notifications and various widgets vying for your attention. Next thing we realise 15 minutes have passed checking emails, the latest photo memories, social media and we’ve forgotten the reason why we even unlocked the phone in the first place.
Drafts allow me to capture ideas in the quickest way possible for later processing. When I do this, I can forget about the thing that I was thinking about, and carry on with my day.
Part Three: App Library
In the latest version of iOS, all apps are conveniently located a quick swipe to the left from the home screen, this means you no longer need pages and pages of apps taking up your home screen, not that we should have pages and pages of apps in the first place.
I will now explain every app I currently have on my device and its relevant use, excluding the default iOS apps that can’t be removed.
- Facebook Messenger
Not counting the two stock social apps included in iOS being phone and messages, I have two apps used for social purposes. The first one being WhatsApp to keep in touch with people overseas, the second being Facebook messenger. I would be inclined to delete Facebook, but if I were to, I would physically need to go on Facebook to check messages from those I still do communicate on this platform with, which I’d rather not do. So I settle for having the Facebook messenger app.
Productivity & Finance Apps
My Productivity & Finance Apps consist of seven applications. I use 1Password to store all of my passwords so is useful when accessing passwords and other important information when out and about. I have Drafts to store any thoughts I have throughout the day for later processing as mentioned earlier. I use Fantastical on my phone to check my schedule and be notified of upcoming activities.
I know I probably shouldn’t but I have Gmail on my phone, I don’t get that many emails and have unsubscribed from all junk, so anything that does come through is usually important. The notifications and the app actually prevent from checking email multiple times a day. I might tweak my workflow to remove this app at some point.
HSBC is a UK banking app, I would delete it and only access on web but I need this for authentication purposes. Quite annoying. Even though I am not in the UK, I still have the Monzo app on my phone. It is a great service and would be useful for when I find myself back there. NAB is my bank of choice in AUS and have it on my phone as it enables Smart Receipts through a service called SLYP.
Notion is the only workspace tool I use, everything from task management, reminders, projects, professional development and notes can all be accessed from my Notion system, and is useful to have access to throughout the day for task management.
I use Slack for work communication, useful for when I’m out and about but still need to be on call. I keep in touch with a couple of people in the UAE and because WhatsApp calling is banned there, I communicate using Zoom.
I only have two non stock apps in the utilities section of my App Library. I have Google Authenticator in order to manage two factor authentication on various websites I use. I don’t have a browser on my phone, if there’s anything I need to check or look up throughout the day I simply make a note of it in Drafts and come back to it later.
Health & Fitness
- Wim Hof Method
There are two apps I use as part of my morning routine in the Health & Fitness section of the App Library and highly recommend.
The first is the Wim Hof Method app. I have been practicing Wim Hof Method for the last couple of years and I find the Wim Hof Method app a great supporting app. Using the bubble breathing timer in the app makes practicing the breathing exercises and tracking data much easier, and I enjoy the challenges that come up from time to time.
The second app I use is GoWOD. This is a mobility app that creates a personalised daily mobility routine based on your current deficiencies. After lifting weights for years, I have only just started prioritising mobility and wish I had done sooner.
I only have one app for entertainment purposes and that is the Spotify app. It serves as my music player and podcast player; all the entertainment I need on a phone. Once I am in a more permanent location, I will be looking to replace Spotify with analogue records and their digital equivalent.
- Google Maps
I only have one app for travel purposes and that is Google Maps. For privacy purposes, I should probably be using a different app, but haven’t considered any other suitable alternatives yet.
Turning off most notifications can be one of the simplest things to do in terms of regaining control of your digital habits, and for that reason I have most Notifications turned off. I have had all notifications turned off in the past, but found it actually promotes worse habits having to physically keep checking apps when someone is trying to get in touch with you. The 9 notifications I have turned on are as follows:
You’ll notice that most of these app notifications are for communication and scheduling apps only.
When looking to create a more minimal iPhone experience and its resulting more intentional use, there’re habits that need to change too. It’s all well and good removing all social apps from your phone, but if the strong desire is still there to check these types of services, you will find a way to do it. Hopefully, by taking some of the ideas I have presented in this post, it might assist in helping some of you get there.
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