I’m in a very interesting point of my life to say the least. I’m the most focused that I’ve ever been and it’s a bit spooky. Maybe even scary.
I have fewer things on my plate than ever before and it’s freeing and yet at the same time strangely annoying – it’s like I’m begging for distraction.
It’s because of this that I’ve decided to take my level of focus to an entirely new level – I’ve gone this far I might as well go as far as I possibly can with it.
As a result, I’ve done what I thought was once impossible – I’ve effectively killed my iPhone usage to the extreme by deleting the majority of the applications that I had and relieved myself of all the ones that caused the most distraction.
My iPhone, as a result, is more like that of a glorified Motorola RAZR (I still have one of my old ones somewhere…):
As you can see, I had two full screens of apps and 4 folders on the second home screen to boot. In total, I had 77 applications on my phone.
I now have much, much less:
I now have 18 apps total, a reduction of 59 applications in total. But that won’t be the shocker for most people – it’s the fact that I no longer have a single Twitter application, a native email app, and other “essentials” that most of you would never dream of deleting.
The only reason I still have a browser (Google Chrome, I got rid of Safari) is because my wife so wisely suggested I keep it just in case I need it to look up something on the fly, which I do often for places to eat and for quick directions.
I deleted nearly all of the native apps that come pre-packaged like the stupid Game Center, NewsStand, Contacts, Weather, Reminder, Stocks, Compass, and even the native Maps (I kept Google Maps).
My phone has essentially become a tool specific to calling and text messaging (via iMessage which is connected to my desktop solution).
Since there are only a handful of apps I’ll discuss why I kept them one-by-one:
- Google Maps – Obvious as I still need directions because I’m a blundering idiot when it comes to finding my way around my own neighborhood.
- Music – This is my lifeblood for productivity and a must-have. Music isn’t a distraction – it’s an uncompromisable tool for productivity and my own sanity. I recently did a huge purge here and deleted 90% of my music.
- Phone – Core tool.
- Messages – Core tool.
- Camera – I love taking photos and it’s how I “remember” things. At some point I’ll expand on this method perhaps.
- Photos – Obviously connected to #5.
- Clock – I use this for my alarm clock and a general time piece.
- Calendar – I no longer have any of my calendars synced up so this is just so that I remember what day it is. No scheduling or meeting or anything else is used here which is why I put it in the first slot in the one folder that I have on the home so I can visually see the day and date.
- Flashlight – I can’t tell you how helpful this app has been.
- Starbucks – There’s no better way to pay for my addiction. There, I said it.
- App Store – I may need to download an app in an emergency so I decided to keep this one available.
- Calculator – As little as I use this I saved it because I use it just enough to warrant a permanent spot. What the heck.
- Chrome Browser – I put it in the folder to remind myself that it’s only for emergencies. Sure, I could check my mail but I won’t be checking my email on my iPhone as that was one of the biggest reasons I’m doing this experiment (see below for more information on that). Again, just for emergencies. I’ll admit that initially I deleted both Safari and Chrome and I still think I could do without it.
- Dropbox – I upload the images from my camera to specified folders for sorting and management. It’s an essential part of my daily workflow and is not a distraction but rather a tool for productivity.
- 1Password – I’ve been converted to this damn app and I’m stuck with it. If I’m ever in a pinch and need a vital piece of data I’ll have it but I’ve rarely used this app (which is a good thing).
- Settings – Duh.
- Instagram – I have this around because it still is my ticket to creating filtered photos. I hate that I still have it though which is why there’s #18…
- Pressgram – I have an initial placeholder build via Xcode for Instagram’s replacement, due out in August of this year. At that time I should be able to delete Instagram and get to 17 apps. Whoopie.
And that’s all she wrote folks. Again, the point of this experiment is to dramatically reduce the distraction that my phone creates in my life and allow me to focus even more on the tasks that need my greatest attention.
Let’s Talk About Email For a Sec…
Is there anything worse than knowing about all these things that need to get done and yet being unable to do them? That’s what I feel (and experience) with mobile email. Since I rarely can do anything with the email that I receive and read on my mobile device I’m left with an ever-increasing list of things that need to get done but can’t because I’m stopped at a stop light in the middle of rush-hour traffic.
It makes me want to puke.
Typing on my mobile device is far too slow and I’m infinitely faster on my notebook computer. I might as well just wait until I get back and enjoy myself, wherever I am. In fact, I’d rather not know about any of the things waiting in my inbox until I have an adequate amount of time to not only read it but react and respond.
This is the reason that I’m no longer reading email on my mobile device. Goodbye, forever. Mind at rest, peace++.
But this isn’t the only benefit and only reason why I’m paring down so hardcore. An obvious outcause of this decision is that I will also live, love, and breathe, a little more. Even after the very first day I felt my life just get better.
It’s hard to describe but it’s only when the distractions are completely gone where I realized how much I was distracted and how much I was missing out on the very life that I wanted to live.
You see, I spend an incredible amount of time in front of electronic devices. Most of my day is in front of my lovely Macbook Air which I believe is one of the best devices ever created by man. All that I need to get done can be done on that device.
My vocation, my job, and my life does not require me to be able to do all the things I can do on my notebook also on my mobile device. I can create that distance and the world will continue to spin, as it has spun, and no one will shed a tear. Especially me.
If I don’t respond immediately, so what? If I don’t “catch” that latest tweet, who cares? If I can’t read that “breaking” blog post that’s disrupting the entire technological world as we know it as I ignorantly sip my iced-coffee while enjoying the view instead of another retina-screen, who gives a flying fuck? I suppose I’ll experience the “disruption” before I get home if it’s that big of a deal.
I’m doing this for me and my already loosely-tied sanity, and not for the internet at large. I can already breathe better, more deeply, and I note hints of life in the air that I never knew existed.
Finally, my background image if fundamental to this experiment and shift of thinking. It’s because of my life partner that I’m making these changes. I have robbed her of 8 years of device-based distraction, justifying every single step of the way that I’m running a startup for goodness sake and leaders in startups don’t do anything other than eat, sleep, and shit their startups.
Well, my marriage has suffered quite enough. I can stand to look her in the eyes (and my daughters) while I’m sitting with them at the dinner table after she’s slaved over a hot stove to create a meal that I would forget the moment it entered my mouth, you know? They are my family, you would think only an idiot would forget that? Apparently I am chief of all idiots.
And yet she has loved me still, warts and all. As I shared above, my life is more focused than it’s ever been, on the very few essentials, and I might as well go for broke and put everything on the table.
I know that crippling my expensive iPhone 5 into nothing more than a communication device seems silly but what I stand to gain both personally and professionally is not silly in the slightest.
[Thanks to Jack Knapp who provided the inspiration. Dude, seriously, WTF.]