Time for a digital spring cleaning to clear your mind

Cover artwork courtesy of Kanika, my talented sister.

You know that great feeling you get after you tidy up a physical space, like your room, kitchen, condo, car or desk? I want to help you get that feeling again, but this time from tidying up your digital space. I’ve outlined 3 challenges in this post to help you do just that.

We understand the value of keeping the many physical spaces we are in clean (well most of us do). Now as we spend an increasing amount of time in a digital space, the same value exists in learning to declutter and clean. Out of sight, out of mind. Having a clean digital space means less potential distractions and more time to focus our attention on what we choose. And we feel better.

Where to start

The dominant digital space we get distracted by is our phone, which is evident when you observe people in any public (or private) space. Cleaning up starts here.

I’ve adopted a minimalist approach with my phone and feel grateful for it:

Recently while hanging out with a friend, he got a glimpse of my phone and commented how his approach was quite different: he had literally hundreds of apps. So I challenged him to immediately delete as many as he could. He then, within minutes, proceeded to delete over half of his apps, and enjoyed that great feeling one gets after cleaning.

Over the past week, I’ve challenged others (including my parents) to do the same, and in every case, no one hesitated and immediately de-cluttered. And enjoyed doing it.

Challenge #1: remove as many apps as you can from your phone, to clean up your digital space, which will help you feel more focused, clean and calm.

As part of this challenge, you may come across an app that you use rarely, I encourage you to still remove it still as when you need it, you can just download it again.

What’s your number?

There is an easy way to check how many apps you have on your phone.

For iOS users, open the Settings app, navigate to General, then About and you’ll see the number next to Applications. For Android users, click here to see the number in your Google settings.

Post a quick comment at the end on this blog post with your number, you may be a source of inspiration for others!

Note: on iOS, the number does not include the pre-downloaded Apple apps (like Mail, Maps, iTunes, App Store, etc.), it counts only the user-downloaded apps.

The one app you should still download

To support my awareness of how often I check and use my phone, I’ve been using an app called Moment on my iPhone (Android users, checkout Checky or BreakFree), that tracks how many minutes per day I spend on my phone and how many times I “picked up” my phone.

Here is my usage from the past week and my stats for the year:

I spend almost 7 hours per week on my phone, which at first seemed like a lot to me, but then I saw that the average user spends 3 hours and 42 minutes per day.

Challenge #2: give the app a try, even for just 1 week, and let greater awareness spark your journey to a more peaceful, calm and focused day-to-day lifestyle. More here.

From app king to app killer

If you’ve known me for more than a few years, you can see the irony here.

9 years ago when I started my business (then called Polar Mobile), the adoption of mobile apps was non-existent. Apple had just launched the iPhone, BlackBerry was still a big deal, Android did not exist, nor did iPads. And we launched a business offering a software platform for media publishers to have mobile apps. Over 5 years, our software was used to build, launch and host over 1,200 mobile apps for 400 media brands around the world, including TIME magazine, Sports Illustrated, Globe and Mail, Maclean’s, Toronto Star, Wired, Vogue, CBS Sports, Food Network and many more. That momentum led to us in 2013 to launch a new platform supporting content based advertising for these same media companies, which has done quite well (we shed the mobile apps platform a few years ago).

And now I’m encouraging you to remove as many apps as you can. The more you remove, the better and more focused you’ll feel.

Moving to an app-less world

The app industry has gone through a major evolution in the past decade. The first era involved operating system fragmentation, with iOS, Android, Windows, BlackBerry, Symbian and others available, that needed to be supported individually as each had a proprietary development language. Then came a wave of web-based applications, available through mobile browsers (like Chrome, Safari, Firefox), as web development technologies improved and a somewhat comparable user experience was available.

And now we’re in a platforms era, where users spend most of their time in a few platform-based apps that dominate our usage (like Facebook, Kik, YouTube, Google Maps), and different applications are now available within these platforms.

In the near future, you will not have to download very many apps at all on your phone. We are getting close to this app-less world. Here is some data that shows the most used mobile apps in the US (from last year). You’ll see they are most what I refer to as platform-based apps.

How to one up yourself

Done removing apps on your phone and want more?

Challenge #3: stop using email on your phone. I stopped using email on my phone 6 years ago now and have not looked back once. Here is why I took email off my phone and what I learned.

— -

Kunal Gupta is the Founder & CEO of Polar. Follow his leadership blog at findfocus.today. At Polar, Kunal leads a talented team transforming the media publishing industry with technology. He is passionate about leadership and finding focus in a modern era. Connect with him on LinkedIn, Medium or Twitter.