How to give your phone a makeover

Seems like everyone’s worried about how much time they’re spending on their phones. Even my productivity boyfriend Cal Newport decided to focus his new book, Digital Minimalism, on how to use personal technology “to support your goals and values, rather than letting it use you.”

I love my phone, but overall, I’m relatively good at taking a break from it. I routinely set my phone on airplane mode, either as a means of achieving sustained focus on a project or because I’m sick of being reactive to texts, emails, Twitter notifications, etc.

Still, by the end of December I’d begun to feel like my phone was reinforcing some of my worst habits (endless Twitter scrolling, anyone?). So on my flight back from spending the holidays with my parents, I decided to give it a makeover.

First, I identified the apps that involve behavior I want to reinforce. These I’d allow to remain on my home screen as standalone apps.

Some of the apps I kept visible:

  • MINDBODY and ClassPass, through which I book workouts
  • Duolingo: I’ve been studying French every day since January 6, and I want to continue
  • Remente: my accountability partner Ivy just introduced me to this app, which uses a wheel of life approach to help you figure out where you want to make the most improvement in your life, then set goals to do so. It’s beautiful and free!
  • Way of Life: a simple checklist app that lets you track your progress on creating daily habits. I’ve been using this for French, writing, meditation, etc., and it really does keep me on task.
  • Sip and Om: an app from Mary Meckley, the host of the Daily Meditation Podcast. One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to meditate every day of 2019, and I love the guided meditations she offers.

I left Twitter on the second screen, but with so many positive apps on the first screen, it’s taking me a little longer to get there.

Next, I deleted apps I no longer use (or, let’s be real, never used) to ensure that anything still on my phone actually belonged there.

Then, I moved everything else into folders. To create a folder, start by holding your finger down on any individual app icon until all of your icons begin vibrating. From there, drag any icon toward another in the same category. This will create a folder containing the two. You can then change the name of the folder and add other relevant apps.

Above are the folders I created. Any apps I don’t use — or don’t want to use — on a regular basis, but need to have access to, have been filed in a folder.

I did this about a month ago, and I’ve noticed a difference in how I spend my phone time. I use the positive apps on my home screen far more often, and the ones in folders a lot less often. When I want to play a game, I have to go looking for it in the Distractions folder, so I do so sparingly (usually while I’m listening to an audiobook on my commute).

I also try to have a lock screen with some kind of reminder of how I’m trying to live my life. For about a year or so, I had an image from that said “Here comes the fun” as my lock screen, but after having it there for a while, I no longer noticed it. So a couple of days ago, I decided to switch things up. In addition to the above home screen background, which is from Alison Willoughby via Design Love Fest, I downloaded this image (also from for my lock screen:

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