I’m on my phone too much. I know, it’s a unique problem to have, but I’ve had enough of the mindless scrolling through social media. Anytime I have to wait a minute or two for anything, out comes my phone and I’m tap-tap-tapping out of habit, now looking at the second photos of everyone’s Instagram posts because I’ve already scrolled past them once.
On the other hand, I’m not so fed up that I’m ready to delete all my social media and other time-wasting apps. I just needed a way to make myself second-guess whether I really want to use them at any given moment.
I came across this piece on Medium that had a few suggestions for reducing your phone usage, some of which we’ve already written about before, like changing your screen to grayscale or using the Forest app.
But one tip stood out to me that I’d never heard or considered before: Empty your tray.
The tray is that bottom row on your home screen that probably contains a few apps you use the most. Get rid of them, author Neil Pasricha writes:
At the bottom of your cell phone screen there is a little tray of icons that stays there. For most people it’s probably their phone, email, browser and messages. But when those icons are visible, on every screen, at all times, you’re more inclined to click them. And, of course, email and texts will wave at you with little number flags to grab your attention. So don’t let them!
I considered this for a moment, but I got to thinking that the stuff in my tray—my phone, my email, my podcast app and my weather app — are actually very functional apps that I go to for a purpose and to complete a very specific task. Start a podcast, make a phone call, check if it’s going to rain this afternoon.
The mindless time-wasting stuff is everything else on the home screen. I go to check the weather and before I know it, I’m scrolling through Instagram again, seeing even more back-to-school photos of my friends’ kids.
So instead of emptying my tray, I decided to empty everything except my tray. I’d limit myself to the four most important apps and I’d make myself swipe for anything else.
OK, so I tried that and I couldn’t narrow it down to four. I didn’t want to swipe every time I needed access to my text messages, my camera, my photos or Slack, either. But again, those are apps I go to for specific purposes — take a picture, read a text, respond to a work message. Not time-wasters.
Is swiping a huge deal? No, of course not. But it has made me pause for just a split second to think, “What am I swiping for?”
If I know exactly what I want to access, I swipe. If I’m just bored or feeling like I should “be on my phone,” I put the stupid thing back down. (Hey, maybe it’s time to start carrying a book around with me for these moments.)
As an added bonus, my home screen now looks less hectic and cluttered. This is the home screen of a peaceful soul.
I might even take it one step further and group all my social media apps together, all my news apps together, and so on. All these extra swipes and clicks will make using my phone slightly more of a pain in the arse.
Which is exactly what I’m going for.