Happy Tidy Tuesday!

We’ve made it to Week 4 of Review Month, the last week of reviewing the highlights of some of what we covered earlier in the first half of the year. We’re wrapping up this month with a look at apps.

For the detailed topics that we’re reviewing this time, visit the Tidy ’24 Calendar page and scroll to the list of posts from April.

Review Week 4: Apps Management

Because of how most of us use smartphones, apps can be among the worst offenders in terms of overloading and breaking down our ability to focus and accomplish the productive, uplifting, and even gratifying things we want. Many apps are tailored to grab our attention as often as possible, giving us shallow dopamine hits to keep us returning for more. Some are more well-intentioned and conscientious, but they still take more of our time than they should. So, how do we deal with this?

Apps Week 1: Purge the Unused

In the first week, we made an initial pass at cleaning up the apps on all our devices by “purging the unused.” This means looking for apps we stopped using, don’t recognize, haven’t thought about in a while, or never open anymore. Here are the action steps from this week:

  1. Identify which devices you want to clean up. For most people, that might only be your smartphone. You might also have a tablet, laptop, or desktop computer.
  2. Look through all the apps on each device for everything you don’t use or don’t need.
  3. Remove all the apps you identified in step 2.

These steps take care of the “low-hanging fruit” of app cleanup, the easy-to-eliminate items that you probably haven’t considered recently. Apps tend to build up over time, especially on our phones, and most of us aren’t diligent or proactive about removing what we don’t need anymore. The task for this week aims to fix that.

Apps Week 2: Silence the Distractors

In the second week, we take on one of my favorite things to do, especially on a smartphone, which is to silence the distractors–in other words, make your device be quiet. For the apps that remain after the purge from Week 1, we want to ensure only the most important and genuinely urgent information can interrupt us through notifications. Notifications serve an essential purpose: to tell us what we need to know quickly without requiring us to hunt down that information. The problem is that most of us have so many apps allowed to notify us about so many things that it all starts to feel like noise. It’s hard to pick out the things that matter from the dozens of messages that ding, light up our phone screens, and distract us all day.

The action steps from week two to silence the distractors are pretty straightforward:

  1. Figure out which apps generate a lot of notifications. This is most easily done by looking in the Notifications area of the Settings app on your devices.
  2. Turn off notifications for all apps that should no longer be allowed to interrupt you.

Remember, the goal here is to silence the things that distract you. It’s not that news, email, YouTube videos, or even social media are unimportant–though it’s worth considering that as well–it’s that deciding when and how to consume and process these things should happen on your own terms at a time you intentionally set aside.

If turning off notifications feels scary, just keep in mind that you’re not turning off your access to these things. You’re not deleting accounts, canceling subscriptions, or doing anything you couldn’t just as easily undo if you change your mind. You’re simply changing a few settings that let you retake control over your devices. You choose when to use them and for what purposes.

Apps Week 3: React Immediately

In the third week of Apps Month, we built on the actions of the first two weeks by coming up with a plan for how to deal with the proactive notifications that are still allowed through after purging unused apps and silencing as much as of what remains as possible. After those steps, you should be left with very few things interrupting your day after those steps. Your apps should feel far more under your control–whether you have few or many, you choose when, why, and how you want to use them. For those essential apps allowed to demand your attention with urgent information, accept the distraction (because you intentionally allowed it to happen) and react immediately. Here are week three’s action steps:

  1. When a notification appears and grabs your attention, identify what you have to do–your next action–as quickly as possible.
  2. If you can do that action fully in two minutes or less, do it. If not, put it on your to-do list or calendar, depending on whether or not it needs to be done at a specific time.
  3. Dismiss the notification.

The goal here is to practice taking care of distractions right away so you can get back to whatever you want or need to be doing. It’s important to minimize interruptions because losing a good, deep workflow is much easier and faster than recovering it. A never-ending series of beeps or dings from dopamine-inducing magical glowing rectangles is a perfect way to wander aimlessly through the day until we reach 5 o’clock or bedtime and wonder how on earth we got so little done. It’s no wonder when our attention is so fragmented on a regular basis.

Reacting immediately is a conscious practice that helps us get back on track instead of falling down a rabbit hole of unplanned activity. Just remember, the most crucial step is to minimize those distractions in the first place.

Apps Week 4: Adapt Freely

In the final week of Apps Month, I invited you to modify my recommendations to find better ways to accomplish your goals. While I hope to present valuable ideas that work in many cases, they don’t apply to everyone. Those of you kind enough to follow along in Tidy ’24 should never feel pressured into doing precisely what I say. Here are the two action steps from Week 4 to adapt freely:

  1. Look for something that isn’t working for you as well as you hoped.
  2. Think about why, what it is about that method or process that isn’t a good fit for you, and change it. Try something different. Make it simpler, give yourself a time limit, put it on a calendar, promise yourself a little reward…whatever might shift things in the right direction.

If you like some idea I explained but not how I applied it, try something else that fits your situation. And even better, tell me about your alternative! Learning what others do to solve their data-taming challenges is one of my favorite things.

Apps Week 5: One App, One Purpose

For the last week of Apps Month, we covered one of my favorite principles to help use apps in a way that encourages improved focus and habit development: one app, one purpose. This trick ensures you always know where to go for specific activities, like task management, scheduling, note-taking, writing, reading, etc. Here are the action steps from Week 5:

  1. Identify three apps that you use regularly.
  2. Write down what you use those apps for.
  3. If there is any overlap or ambiguity, pick at least one thing to change about your usage to provide better clarity and separation between apps.

In the detailed video for that week, I provided an example list of all the apps I use for everyday purposes. However, they are only for reference and not what I’d necessarily recommend for everyone.

Identifying why you use specific apps helps clarify how and when to use them effectively. It also highlights areas for improvement, such as using an app outside of its intended purpose or having multiple apps that do the same thing.

Summary

That’s all for our review of Apps Month! For a more detailed look at any of those four topics, head over to the Tidy ’24 Calendar page for links to each week’s material.

If you have questions, comments, or ideas about apps management or the topics discussed above or in more detail during April, comment below or send me a message.

Happy data-taming!

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