Arranging your Smartphone Apps

Over the last 10+ years smartphones have become an integral part of our lives.  This technological innovation has become extremely polarizing.  Smartphones allow for unlimited productivity and possibility in the palm of our hands.  Conversely, smartphones can be a massive distraction and can negatively impact our general well being.

One thing we can all agree on is smartphones aren’t going anywhere.  If anything, the technological world will continue innovating, which will create a world where smartphones continue to grow in importance.  The question is how do we utilize our smartphones to encourage productivity and wellness, while minimizing the negative aspects?  One solution is to strategically arrange how your smartphone apps are displayed on your screen.

Typical Home Screen

When you unlock your smartphone what do you see?  Most likely you’ll be viewing between 16-24 apps, which also are the apps you spend the most time using.  It’s important to recognize just because an app is used frequently doesn’t mean it’s a good use of your time.  This realization sparked my motivation to rearrange the apps on my smartphone.

Extreme Makeover: Smartphone Edition

Below is my home screen before changes were made:


Before making changes to this screen, let’s categorize smartphone apps into three groups.  Foundational apps are required frequently and act as tools to assist in your everyday life.  Time Sucks are the apps we open when we’re bored and want to “kill time”.  The last category are aspirational apps that provide genuine benefits to our life, but may not necessarily be top of mind.  I’ve provided examples of each category below:

  1. Foundational: Messages, Camera, Google Chrome, Maps, Calculator, Clock
  2. Time Sucks: Instagram, Facebook, Candy Crush, YouTube, TempleRun, Snapchat
  3. Aspirational: Headspace (meditation app), Podcasts, Tabata (fitness app)

The goal is to arrange your apps in a way so your home screen consists of only foundational and aspirational apps.  To do this it’s important to identify the apps you open when you’re bored and need a form of distraction.  These apps should be placed out of sight when you unlock your smartphone.  It’s like saying you want to eat less candy but leave a bowl of M&Ms lying on the kitchen counter.  If you want to eat less candy, leave the M&Ms in a hard to reach cabinet.  Whether it’s Instagram or consuming candy, to decrease a negative habit place the trigger out of plain sight.

After completing this exercise, my smartphone home screen now looks like this:


You’ll notice all social media and gaming related (time suck) apps have been removed from my home screen.  After removing the time sucks, I brought in the aspirational apps.  These applications (Tabata, Headspace, Podcasts, Gratitude Plus) I desire to use more frequently.  By placing these apps in the home screen, I’ll be reminded to access them more consistently.  At the same time I’m less inclined to use the time suck apps which are now out of sight.


Rearranging your smartphone can make the difference in your daily output.  Perhaps instead of crushing candy, you could be journaling your thoughts or listening to a thought provoking podcast.  While ridding technology completely from our lives is an unrealistic ask, we can still be discipline in how we arrange our smartphone app layout.  Over time you’ll experience how a simple change to your phone can make a huge difference with how you interact with it.

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