What Is This Phone For?

Recorded on April 7th, 2016

This is probably T.M.I., but I don’t care. It’s a cool trick.

On the latest episode of Cortex (#26: Pick your Poison), C.G.P. Grey told Myke Hurley that he thinks deliberately about what he wants his iPhone and various iPads to be used for, and he tailors the homescreens to put himself in the right mindset when he uses them. Some devices are for work/health and some are for fun/relaxation. His current iPhone homescreen looks like this, and I hope he and Myke won’t mind that I stole this from the Relay FM website:

screenshot of C.G.P. Grey's iPhone homescreen

His top row is especially crazy, with its folders named “.” and containing single tiny icons. His thinking there is that he doesn’t need folder names if the one app visible in each folder reminds him of the rest of the similar apps hidden deeper in the folder. It works for him, but that’s too much thinking for me.

What I take away from his overall aim is that he doesn’t cram his homescreen full of apps. He doesn’t turn on his phone and feel overwhelmed by choices, or get distracted by a bunch of things to lead him astray, even though it would be theoretically more efficient to have as many core apps one tap away as he could fit.

My homescreen was full until yesterday. When I heard Grey’s method, I thought about what I wanted to do more of on the iPhone. My answers were: read more, write more, plan the days and weeks better, have better habits in general, be healthier, and listen to more lossless music. And alongside that, what are the apps with notifications/badges that I really don’t want to have to skip to screen 2 to see? Here’s what I came up with:

screenshot of my iPhone homescreen

This whole scheme is brand new, so there are a crap-ton of annoying badges reminding me of things I’m behind on, but I’m catching up.

I had also been trying to come up with a way to be more aware of some instructions my doctor gave me to keep cholesterol in check. It had been a month since my lab results, and I had already forgotten what she said about eating better and getting more exercise. I figured if the bullet points from her email were in a place I could see them regularly, I’d be more likely to remember them and make better choices between now and the next visit. I copied and pasted her instructions into Pages, squeezed the typeface way down, took a screenshot, cropped it to show just the text I wanted to use, inverted it in Adobe Photoshop Express, and then used Fixer to make a wallpaper image out of it. The bullet points take up precious screen real estate, but that’s the whole idea.

When Sarah saw the resulting homescreen, she congratulated me on my unprecedented level of nerdiness.

We’ll see if those diet/exercise reminders work, or if I go numb to them after a while. So far, it’s been nice to see the more focused homescreen for the past couple of days, and I do feel like the apps that are left are therefore boosted in purpose and importance. Everything else I actually use is only a screen or two away, or available by a Spotlight search anyway.

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