Last year, I decided to reduce my time on my iPhone and chose the “Make it Boring” method. My friends are often asking me for some details, so here is a kind of how-to (successfully) make your iPhone boring.
To make it more supportable and avoid switching back quickly, I preferred to use the compound effect and iterate progressively.
What worked for me
Step 1: Uninstall Social Network Apps (Quick win)
- Uninstall Facebook
- Uninstall Twitter
- Uninstall Instagram
- Uninstall LinkedIn
- Uninstall insert-social-thing-name-here
Bonus: It’s also a good moment to do some cleanup and remove every useless app.
This easy step removes the most addictive apps and makes your phone very boring ultra-easily.
FYI, it’s not because you don’t have the app that you won’t be able to check-out something on those networks :)
I completely forgot it, but each of those apps has a nice mobile website which is very similar to the app, without the icon on your phone screen, without the icon on your “share using …” widget, and without notifications.
Step 2: Uninstall every Game (Quick win)
Games were for me the easy excuse to use my iPhone while waiting or while commuting; while waiting for my doctor, or during the boring meetings.
Removing all games forces you to use your phone for useful things in these moments (answer emails, read articles, etc.), or just not to use your phone and try to profit from the real world.
Step 3: Reduce Notifications (Quick-win)
This is the easiest and most useful change I’ve made; I can’t imagine returning to a mobile phone with notifications for everything happening in my numeric world (chats, emails, spams, games, ads, discounts, etc.).
How I made it:
- Disable all notifications; I’m now muting notifications for about 90% of my apps, so it was easier for me just to start disabling all apps first. (System Settings > Notifications > click on each app > uncheck “Allow Notifications”)
- Re-enable some app notifications; This is where I failed most, but it’s easy to iterate and progressively find your ideal configuration. Today, the only apps that can send me push notifications are: Transportation apps (Google Maps, Air France, Taxi, Citymapper, etc.), Mail.app filtered to VIP only, and Pushover which is an app that I can manually configure using Zapier to deliver me exceptional push notifications (raining day, take umbrella; my website is down, etc.)
- Disable notification badges; no more “Please, open me, I’ve got things for you.”
- Bonus: Notification Center: you can let some apps display notifications only in “*Notification Center*”; those apps won’t make the phone vibrate, won’t have a badge, but will be easily available from the “*Notification Center*” without opening the app. I choose to do it with my most used non-vital but important apps (Slack, Monitoring app, Gmail); it’s a difficult tradeoff to configure, you need to choose wisely the apps that will allow you to avoid checking notification center manually every 5 minutes while having useful information. If unsure, just don’t use the notification center for boring notifications and disable communication apps completely).
Step 4: Removed Shiny Background Image (Easy)
Easy, just remove the background to make your iPhone less friendly (people say that it’s also good for your battery).
I let a minimalist background image on the lock-screen, mostly to have a discussion topic with peers in real-life.
Step 5: Reorganized my app screens
- Leave the first screen empty, so when you unlock your phone, you won’t see shiny apps
- Keep a minimal amount of apps outside of folders to avoid seeing shiny icons; I kept some productivity apps (Notes, Airtable, Gmail, etc.), some utilities (Maps, Citymapper, etc.), and some “smart entertainment” apps (Spotify, Petit Bambou, Medium, etc.); Sort those apps alphabetically.
- Move the rest of your apps, the ones that you rarely use into folders on the last screen; I’m now opening those apps only using Spotlight and never go back to my last screen.
Step 6: Switch to Black & White (Hard)
This step is hard, but it’s one with the better “Make Your iPhone Ultra Boring” result :)
Step 7: Enable “Do not disturb most of the time” (Bonus)
It’s not so useful as most of the notifications are already disabled, but it allows you to keep the missing ones only available through “Notification Center”, so you can check them when you’re ready to check them in the morning.
Sometimes, I disable it manually if I’m waiting for food delivery or something like that.
What didn’t work for me
- I tried, but I failed to completely disable chat notifications (Slack, Whatsapp, etc.); I was losing too much time opening the apps when someone told me to check something, so I decided to re-enable the notifications for those apps but limit them to the “Notification Center”; I don’t receive any alert but can easily see what happens when I voluntarily want to check them and have only one button to go to the interesting conversation.
- Removing all games; I keep some kid games for my first daughter, it’s particularly useful to keep her calm during a long boring period (Transports, Doctor’s waiting room, etc.), and usefully for me, those games addictiveness are not working on me :)
Some ideas for the next steps
I’ve considerably less feeling in the following ideas, that’s why I keep them at the end, I will probably try them
- Move every app in a single folder, making it impossible to open apps without using Spotlight to search an app by name
- Remove most of the installed apps
- Remove chat apps
- Switch to a long, complex and mandatory password
- Switch to airplane mode most of the time
- Use an old-style phone first and keep a smartphone or tablet in my bag for urgencies, taking photos, listening to music, reading books or articles, sending emails, etc.
My iPhone now has way more battery longevity!
I still have some bad feeling when using my phone for a long time, but a lot less as I now consider that it’s now a tool helping me to do useful things.
I’m less behind my phone, more behind my computer, and more in the real world too.
When I go to a meeting without my computer, I won’t receive notifications and stay focused.
For more details, I suggest you to read those excellent articles that inspired me, they are more detailed, and also contain useful feedbacks in the comments: