(This article originally appears on SimpleProductivityBlog.com. It has been updated.)
I know I am not the only one who struggles with this, because when I see people looking for information on their phone it seems like they are tapping all over the place as well.
My phone is cluttered. I’ll bet your phone is cluttered too.
And it’s hurting your productivity.
What Is Phone Clutter?
Phone clutter is all that stuff on your phone that isn’t used. It also extends into the things that are used but aren’t put away properly, making it difficult to find the information you are looking for.
Challenge: look at your phone’s home screen. How many things on there do you use every day?
Why Phone Clutter Is Hurting Your Productivity
If you have ever had to search for an app to get information you needed a the moment, that delay is hurting your productivity. If you can’t remember what application you put the information in, that is hurting your productivity. If you have ever had to click through multiple screens, then down into folders, to find the app that had your information, that is hurting your productivity.
Our phones are supposed to be a help to us, but when they are poorly organized and cluttered, they impede us from getting the information we need out of them quickly.
Let’s look at it this way…let’s say there is a filing cabinet where all of your information is stored. However, you can’t find the piece of paper you are looking for because it is in a folder that is jammed into the cabinet randomly with respect to its fellows; and within the folder, it is mixed with other information, possibly things that have nothing to do with the piece of paper.
What we have to do (and yes, I am first in line for this), is to a) reduce the clutter on the phone and b) organize it so I can find things quickly.
How To Get Rid Of Phone Clutter
Purge The Apps
I will be the first to admit that I am an app collector. If I am searching for something, I will try out a whole bunch of free apps. Before I buy something, I will try the free version. Then there are the free apps – highlighted by both Apple and Starbucks.
(And since Apple only recently decided to let you delete apps, my app library grew huge . . . and it’s size is keeping me from doing a thorough purge)
The first step to get rid of the clutter is to go through all your apps, and figure out what you don’t use. Delete what you don’t use, or move it to a folder or screen for deletion at a later date.
Example: I had 9 weather apps in a folder on my home screen. I only use two of them regularly, and two of them are seasonal (hurricane). I moved the hurricane to a distant folder, and deleted the unused ones. I moved the two remaining out of the folder so I can access them with one click from the main screen. Since I check these apps at least twice a day, this is better than having to drill down to get to the apps.
The Blank Initial Screen
This was a trick I got from Stever Robbins (Get It Done Guy) at How To De-Addictify Your Technology. The home screen on my phone is blank. Yes, all of my apps are on screen 2 and later. This allows me to bypass (and possibly get sidetracked) by the stuff on my home screen.
The Hardcore Way
If you really want to purge, put all your apps into a single folder and as you use them, move them out. At the end of the month, delete what is left.
I don’t know many people who have the intestinal fortitude to do this, so if you don’t think you can do it, it’s OK. Go ahead and organize the rest of your apps.
Now that you’ve purged, you are left with apps you use regularly. And let’s be honest here, there are probably apps that you don’t use regularly, but you don’t want to delete. That’s OK. (I couldn’t get rid of all mine, either).
The next step is to organize them so that you can find what you need quickly.
The main screen of your phone should be apps that you use daily. Things like your calendar, task list, and contacts are probably going to be on there. In my case, the two weather apps, my clock, the app for my home alarm system, the podcast app, and the photos app.
Beyond that, organize as you see fit.
I love the suggestion I found from Lifehacker see Organize Your Apps by Action Instead of Category for a More Intuitive Find-and-Launch System) about organizing apps according to what you do with them. For instance, you could group all your social media in one folder and call it “update”.
Put a bunch of these folders on your second screen – things that you use fairly often. If you have things you really don’t mind scrolling and clicking for (like games?) put them on a further screen, or nested into folders. Because let’s face it, you are not going to be in a frantic rush to get in and play Words With Friends.
If you don’t think you are going to use an app, put it in a folder called “Delete” and if you use it in the next month, move it out of that folder.
What do you think? Is your phone cluttered? Do you have an awesome way to organize everything on your phone? Please share below!