Brian Parks


Purging my phone of useless apps

I'm currently reading Deep Work, a book about how we are constantly surrounded by distractions in a world that still (or perhaps more so) values the productivity that results from focused work and provides some tips on how to deal with it. I've long been interested in overhauling my schedule and how I work, part of which involves purging my phone of useless apps. Here's how I decided what to remove.

Initially, my plan was to remove the apps that I never used or at least used very infrequently. The problem with that, I now realize, can be summarized as follows:

  1. The reason I never use the apps that I never use is because I don't feel drawn, compelled, or addicted to them. Thes apps therefore could remain on my phone forever and have virtually no impact on my life.
  2. The reason I very infrequently use certain apps is because I very rarely need to, but when I do need to I would prefer to have them already on my phone than have to download them again (or set them up again, in certain cases). A good example of this is the Uber app -- I'm very rarely without my car, but when I am in a city in need of transportation, I'd much prefer not to have to re-download the Uber app.
  3. I'm faced with extreme difficulty in determining which of the never- or rarely-used apps to delete because it's difficult to predict which category they fall into and whether or not I might actually need them at some point in the future.

Instead, the appropriate strategy is to delete the apps that I find most distracting and simultaneously lowest value when I do use them. Here are the apps I am deleting and why:

  1. Chrome. As an iPhone user, I already have Mobile Safari, which is far more integrated with the OS than Chrome will ever be. In addition, Chrome shows a list of trending news articles, which frequently are attention-grabbing, yet won't affect my day in the slightest, other than causing me to waste 10 or 20 minutes.
  2. LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a great social network for connecting professionally, but the news feed is a mixed-value attention-grabbing addiction engine. I also already get emails when something important happens, so getting the notifications on my phone and on my watch when someone connects or tags me does little other than steal my attention and try to suck me in.
  3. Outlook. Turns out, I have actually had notifications for Outlook disabled since the last time I went on vacation. I had done this because the only time I really had reason to pay attention to the notifications is when I am out of the office (when I am in the office I check email via my computer), and that really only meant I was preventing myself from being fully present in whatever I was doing outside of work.
  4. Slack. Similar reason to above. When I'm working, I have Slack open on my work computer (unless I am focusing on a specific task that requires additional concentration, in which case I really don't want alerts on my phone/watch). I do have a few non-work Slack communities that I am a part of, but I also get email alerts for these.

I'm excited to see how this affects my productivity and my screen time (my watch/phone has reported an average of about 2 hours/day over the last week).