Life is chaotic and, truthfully, sometimes smartphones make things worse. Sure, there are many great apps for being more productive and organized… but clutter is oftentimes a person’s worst enemy.
Well here’s an iPhone productivity/organization hack that has worked wonders for me: organizing every single app on my iPhone into one folder. For lack of a better term, I’ll call it the “Focus Folder” hack.
I wouldn’t use this technique if you want to get the most out of your smartphone, but I would use this technique if you want to get the most out of yourself.
From official Apple apps like the phone app, mail and safari to third party apps like Evernote and Flipboard, I recently put ALL of my apps into one folder.
The effect was immediate. My iPhone’s screen seemed so empty and naked. Once the panic that I might have just done something stupid that would be a pain to reverse began to dissipate., I somehow began to breathe a bit easier. A few cobwebs disappeared in my brain. I knew that I had tamed my phone; I knew that I had crushed it’s ability to rule my life. I was back in the driver’s seat. After a few hours the panic was gone and it just felt really, really good.
Using a focus folder forces a person to prioritize. The most used apps are positioned first followed naturally by the least used. Put differently, the most useful apps come first.
Ask yourself: what are the top 9 apps you can’t live without? Using a focus folder forces you to figure this out. For me it was: Phone, Messages, Calendar, Evernote, Drafts, Spotify, Togethera, Lyve and Logos Bible. It surprised me that as apps vied for a spot at the front of my focus folder, Safari got bumped to the next screen.
In my focus folder trial I found that spotlight search became very useful—a first in my iPhone experience as I had never really had a use for it before. The apps that I used frequently but that weren’t in my top 9—the apps that were useful enough for me to know by name—I often launched via search.
The focus folder made me realize that I had a bunch of apps on my iPhone whose names I didn’t even know… At some point I had downloaded them thinking they would add something to my life… I just didn’t realize that what they were adding was pure clutter. The focus folder helps you weed out these types of apps—the ones that sound good but that you never end up using.
Thanks to the focus folder I began to understand how I use my iPhone in the first place. When you have screen after screen of apps you waste a lot of time either by looking for a specific app you need amongst the clutter, or by browsing your apps to see what all you’ve got in the first place.
With one folder you ONLY use what you need. Because there can be no sub-folders within folders in iOS you can’t organize apps any other way but by what you use most frequently.
Games get pushed back. News apps get pushed back. Social apps get pushed back. In other words, the apps that waste your time the most get pushed back.
Personally, I use the focus folder selectively. I now keep a relatively small amount of apps on my device at any given time (they all fit within 1 screen on my iPhone 6 Plus, including a couple folders). When I know I need to get something done and can’t mess around, everything disappears into my focus folder.
Using a focus folder feels very right and very wrong all at the same time. On the one hand, your phone has never been so organized. On the other, Apple clearly never intended for an iPhone to have one and only one folder (as you can see in their ads).
Using a product in an unintended way can feel a bit weird—at first—but I have to say people that saw my iPhone screen couldn’t believe what I had done. They were awed. Some were inspired enough to copy me and create focus folders of their own.
One final hack that goes right along with the focus folder (a hack within a hack, if you will): give your focus folder an inspiring label. I labeled mine “Stay Foolish” in reference to a Steve Jobs quote (Stay hungry, stay foolish). As an entrepreneur it suited me well. Find some words that will give you a boost every time you see them.