A blog on academic writing and language for EAL PhD students and ECRs

Lingua

Lingua

A blog on academic writing and language for EAL PhD students and ECRs

Focus Strategy: Declutter Your Phone

Updated: Aug 18



This strategy applies to your mobile phone, tablet and your computer.

Our digital devices very often blur the line between work life and personal life. We are awash in notification beeps and banners, making it difficult to focus when we sit down to write. But it doesn’t have to be that way: there are some strategies that you can (and should!) use to declutter your digital landscape as much as you are able.

Cal Newport is a proponent of the most radical solution of all—Digital Minimalism—which challenges us to take a break from all digital apps for 30 days and then go through a process of gradually and deliberately reintroducing the ones that provide true value. This solution is very powerful, but it’s simply not feasible for a lot of people.

A more workable and realistic solution is to following a three-step process: declutter your devices as much as you can, create a minimalist home screen, and pare back push notifications and adopt a pull strategy for all but the most essential communication apps. After you go through this process with your mobile phone, you can do the same with your tablet and/or your computer desktop.

Declutter devices

  1. Make a list of all the apps on your phone.

  2. Draw a line through the apps that you haven’t used recently.

  3. Evaluate the remaining apps in terms of their true value: Do they genuinely help you work or communicate or do they hinder or distract? Do they empower you or do they cause anxiety or FOMO? Do you really need access to an app while you’re on the go/away from your computer in your day-to-day? Draw a line through the apps that hinder, distract or aren’t truly needed when on the go.

  4. Place the remaining apps into categories (work apps, banking/finance apps, transport apps, travel apps, utilities/tools, communication apps, etc.) by color coding them or putting them in columns.

  5. For each category, mark the true value apps that you use on a regular basis.

  6. Remove the rarely used apps and the apps that hinder.

  7. Remove all social media apps. (Note: You will very likely resist steps 6 and 7, but do them anyway; you can always add apps back later.)

  8. Choose your top 5 must-have apps.

  9. Organize the remaining apps in folders.

Minimalist home screen

Pare back notifications


Photo credit: Viktor Talashuk on Unsplash

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