Minimising apps for a clearer mind

Many of us own iPhones and other smartphone devices to accompany our daily lives, whether it be for entertainment or what we think is productivity. But are all these apps really benefitting our lives?

In a Nielson study from just last year, the time spent on apps has increased significantly year on year. In just the space of two years, the time spent on apps has increased by 14 hours per month. Although the study does show that the total amount of apps we use has generally stayed the same.

It appears we only have a capacity to use a certain amount of apps consistently, perhaps this is based on our own limitations of memory – our attention may only be able to focus on so many amounts of information. However we are using the apps for longer periods – approaching two days of time spent looking at apps – and this is something we should be concerned about.

The more time we spend looking down at our phones in apps, the less time we are looking around in the real world, experiencing life through eyes, sounds, smells, tastes.. What benefit are we really getting from concentrating so much of our time into the digital?

It may be that we’re checking to see how many Likes we got for our holiday pictures, or browsing the eBay app to see the latest bargains that you very likely don’t need. If this sounds at all familiar, then ask yourself an honest question: how are these apps improving the quality of my life?

One of the most common purposes of apps is to make us feel connected to the wider world, the only problem is that when we become too dependent on these apps to ‘connect’ with the world we actually become more introverted in negative patterns. We decide not to pick up the phone or see people in person because we feel as though we are satisfying our need for contact. Contact, interaction, intimacy; are all things which every human being wants to experience and yearns for it – it is a natural desire within us that we need to fulfil.

Attempting to fulfil these needs via apps and digital formats only gives us very minor bursts of satisfaction without any real long term effects.

This is true for connecting types of apps, but there are others such as gaming, creative, etc – all condensed forms of our typical digital tools right there in our hands. Of course there could be purpose to these apps, and different apps are useful to different purposes for different people. But we are commonly using apps as a pacifier. A way to cure boredom, to mundane ourselves into a false sense of fulfilment.

Enter the practice of minimalism. This is a term thrown around as a way of life for some, or a chapter of How to be a Hippy 101, but the basic reasoning behind minimalist practice is a simple one which is to remove the unnecessary, and lead a more meaningful life. Minimalism is not only about things either as it is often misunderstood, removing the unnecessary can be applied to any aspect of life – and that includes apps.

What to Do About Those Apps

If you find yourself matching up with the study of spending nearly two whole days looking at apps, then maybe it’s time to consider reducing both the amount of apps on your phone and in turn the amount of time spent looking at them.

Here’s some simple steps, a mini life hack if you will, to guide yourself away from overuse of apps.

  1. Count the amount of apps on your phone, not including the ones you can’t get rid of
  2. Halve the number you counted, this is the amount you are going to reduce your apps to. This shouldn’t be any more than 25.
  3. Starting with the easy ones, delete apps you don’t need or use, one by one.
  4. If you come to an app that you’re not too sure you want to delete, then consider the 7/7 rule. Have I used this app in the past 7 days? Or will I use this app in the next 7 days? If neither is true, time to bin.
  5. Consider that many apps actually have mobile optimised websites, and having the app on your phone isn’t really that much of a time-saver. We’re talking Amazon, ASOS, maybe even Facebook.
  6. Time to practice not looking down at your phone. Whenever you feel the urge to look at your phone, ask yourself “Have I already looked at it this hour?” then definitely don’t bother. Try to increase the time factor – the world will continue to revolve, you won’t miss anything that would change your life, relax.
  7. Consider turning off most notifications, these just act as an attention grabber – who cares if so and so just liked your status update or your new picture, get back to the real world with the important things.

Further Reading

If you like this whole idea of Minamilsm and want to learn more about it, a great place to start is at TheMinimalists.com – a very popular blog run by two guys who found that becoming a Minimalist improved their lives drastically.