Digital Minimalism – Delete the phone apps

This is my third post on the topic of minimalism. You can find the first two posts below:

  1. Me & Minimalism
  2. What is minimalism and what is not?

Once I fairly got an idea of my version of minimalism, the next step was to understand how I can implement this in my life. The majority of the videos talk about tidying up and many of them talk about organizing your wardrobe. Some play 30-days minimalism games, some limit themselves to own 100 items or less and some follow Marie Kondo style of asking if the stuff in concern is sparking joy. While I am glad that it works for many people, I wasn’t too convinced in organizing the clothes or talking to inanimate objects. The area where I needed more control was in the digital space.

Digital minimalism is, by the way, a popular concept and you have some books and many videos on the topic. I wanted to start this process from my smartphone. As somebody famously said (Mark Twain, maybe?), phones are becoming smart and humans are becoming dumb. Even if it was told in jest, you can’t deny this. And if you have watched the series Black Mirror, you would understand all the areas where we can go wrong in the future in the name of technology and growth. This series was a tight slap on the cheek, at least for me. The easiest and the most distracting device is my smartphone and that is why I am choosing to start the practice using my mobile device.

I was too ambitious in the past and removed the apps from my phone in a sudden surge of energy only to reinstall them back in a few days. The problem was that the decision was made in haste. I was focussed on the result of removing the apps but not in understanding how I am using the app, what value does it add to me, how frequently I use it, is there other ways I can use it or what will happen if I don’t use it. I did not ask the right questions but started deleting in an impulse. So they were back in no time. As Simon Sinek would have said, start with why. Without a strong enough reason, you are probably not going to stick to your decision.

I am intending to implement this in three major steps.

  1. Eliminate the obvious
  2. Elevate the unsure
  3. Examine the essentials

1. Eliminate the obvious

The first step is to identify all the apps that are obviously not so useful to you. There will be some apps in your phone that

  • Would be just lying there without a clue about when or why you installed it in the first place.
  • Would have been used just once for some requirement and not touched afterwards. If you could look closely, you may even see cobwebs.
  • Apps that were installed, because you know, just in case you may need it. There is no real requirement.
  • Apps that were used in the past but are not relevant any more.

These apps are not useful at all and you will not have any hesitation in removing them. Go ahead and uninstall those.

I have done this and uninstalled a bunch of applications from my android. I will probably post about those apps in the future but not sure if you would be interested to know. It would be like watching somebody getting a haircut. There are also some apps that come by default with the phone that cannot be uninstalled. You just have to live with this or find another way to reduce the distraction.

2. Elevate the unsure

I just came up with that heading to match the first one. There will be some apps that

  • Are used infrequently but regularly (oxymoron, but you get the point). For example, apps that use to make monthly payments
  • Apps that are useful now and then but you are not sure if you should remove them.
  • You neither need them for sure nor eliminate them for sure.

What I really meant by elevating the unsure is to elevate them to the big screen. Move them from apps on your phone to laptops. Almost all apps also allow login through a web browser. For apps that you are not sure if you want or not, consider accessing them only from a laptop or desktop when needed. This way you can remove them from the phone and would not require constant attention.

I managed to implement this step for a few apps and a few more are in the pipeline.

3. Examine the essentials

The apps that survived the two points above can be considered as essentials. These apps are something that you use everyday, or several times a day and are pretty much in your daily workflow. However, these need not stay like this eternally. For the essentials apps

  • Keep them
  • Periodically question yourselves if they are still relevant
  • Examine the options in which the essentials app can be kept but you can configure them so that they do not distract you.

I have not reached this stage yet. But I have a couple of ideas to manage these essential apps. I will try those and let you know how that worked for me.

My end goal would be to go back to the feature phone and use it for what it was originally intended for. To make calls. All you have to ask yourself is what did you do before the advent of smart phones? It is not completely possible to move in this direction with the company providing a phone for work. At least, I will try to reduce the usage on the personal front.

Did you ever try to take back the control from your phone? Did you succeed? Would love hearing your ideas.

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11 thoughts on “Digital Minimalism – Delete the phone apps

  1. On the phone thing, I am absolutely minimalist.

    I opted for 3 apps and installed a micro sd card for pictures and music. It won’t let me store apps there.

    Thanks to not being able to remove all their preinstalled garbage like Facebook, it just feels icky and cluttered to me. But since that’s not my fault, I think I’ve been successful in not turning my phone into the hoarder’s dream my home is 😉

  2. That’s good. Phone is sucking away everyone’s attention these days. 9 out of 10 people,including me at this moment, are walking by looking down at the phone. Glad you have not fallen for the trap.

  3. Have enjoyed reading these three posts on minimalism, and appreciate your systematic approach. Though I have believed in doing with less for a long time now, my dependence on my mobile seem to be increasing. Not least among the demanding apps is WordPress! One alproach I’ve been hearing about us ‘digital fasting’. Designate certain days of the week, or hours in the day, as ‘no digital media’ time. Seems like a good way to discipline oneself out of the drug dependency.

  4. Thanks. Glad you like it. WordPress is on my unsure list. Digital fasting is interesting. I have read only the opposite of that idea – scheduling time to use gadgets. I can start with scheduled downtime and then move on to scheduled usage.

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