My “Minimal” iPhone Setup — How I found peace in the chaotic digital age.

My “Minimal” iPhone Setup
October 10, 2019

Nowadays, the “minimal” way of living has been applied to those who try to find peace in their chaotic life, as well as in their digital world — smartphones.

Stewart Butterfield, the founder of Slack, wrote an article describing how he wants his team to be, there’s one line that hit me hard:

We want them to become masters of their own information and not slaves, overwhelmed by the never ending flow.

People have their solutions when facing this “information flood” kind of situation:

  • Some try to become the ultimate “Minimalist” by turning off notifications, offloading apps and turning on Do Not Disturb all day long.
  • Some so-called tech-nerds love to switch
  • between productive apps and often end up stressing out and became less productive.

  • Some just take it as it comes, embracing all kinds of chaos and disorder.

There’s no absolute right or wrong with these choices, each way of management has its advantages and costs.

However, most of them rest their hope on “the problem may disappear naturally over time”, and end up avoiding the problem instead of facing it.

After running some testing and experimenting, I have discovered some tips and tricks that can help you make a smarter decision on your phone — and even a better-looking interface.

Tip 1: Goal settings

What do I want to achieve with my apps?

  • I want to optimize the process and improve the quality of my work.
  • I want to enhance my lifestyle, and save time for what’s important.

Don’t follow blindly. Be honest with yourself, think about what really bring values to you.

What are my needs?

Look at the apps you installed on your phone, think deeply about the needs according to your goals and ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I use it every day?
  • How often do I use it?
  • Does it meet the standard of my goals? or do you keep it just to gratify your vanity?

Tip 2: Context

What device do I own?

  1. Map out every scenario of each device you use.
  2. Connect your needs with the scenarios.

In my case, I am a UI/UX designer, I owned an iPad, iPhone, and MacBook Pro. Here are the usage contexts for all of these products:

  • iPhone as my general usage.
  • iPad as my learning, reading, and writing tools.
  • MacBook Pro as my working tools.

After mapping out the usage contexts, it gives you the bird’s-eye view of how you can utilize them.

Tip 3: Application Management

Choose your apps wisely

The author of Positioning, Jack Trout, mentioned in his book: humans cannot deal with more than seven units of information at a time, and that is why most people only use 7–8 apps on their daily basis.

My 8 most used apps on my home page, and the rules are also applied to the folders.
My 8 most used apps on my home page, and the rules are also applied to the folders.

I use a website called iEmpty that allows you to create blank spaces on your home screen and I then divided my apps into two main categories: high priority and low priority, which all are carefully picked and tailored to my needs.

My four ways to choose high priority apps (used almost every day):

  • Native Apps — stock apps like Notes or Reminder, etc.
  • Cross-platform.
  • Well-known apps — , etc.
  • Things 3, Omnifocus

  • Uniqueness — only one app per category.

My three ways to choose low priority apps (only use them when I needed it)

  • Only download them when I need to
  • Combine them to the web browser (Safari/Chrome)
  • Combine them to a similar app (news app to Reeder app)

Manage your notifications smartly

Turn off all the unnecessary notification, means only keep important notifications like email, message, or calls depends on your situation.

  • Turn off social media notifications (Try this, you will thank me later.)
  • Turn off notification badge — not only this will help decrease the urge to open an app full of notifications but also make your home screen looks cleaner.
  • Turn on airplane mode before you go to bed — This way, when you wake up, you’re not immediately confronted with new notifications.

Last Tip: Take control of your desires


delete apps that don’t satisfy your needs nor meet the standards of your goals.


If you find an app more powerful than your current app that also suits your needs, replaces it.


Ruminate on what your goals are, focus on the top priority apps, and block all other unnecessary information.


Keep the usage habit, while adjusting to your needs base on your situation.

Last word…

“You are the master of your destiny. You can influence, direct and control your own . You can make your life what you want it to be.”

Take a deep breath, meditate, you’ll realize the world is finally quite.


Hsu. © 2021