How to Architect Your Smartphone for a More Focused Life

Use the Pyramids of Phone Productivity to design a digital environment that aligns with the lifestyle you want

Ria Tagulinao
Forge
Published in
8 min readNov 30, 2021

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Photo: GeorgePeters/Getty Images
NOTE: The example here makes use of an iPhone, but the principles of organization are applicable to other operating systems.

When it comes to habit formation, self-improvement author James Clear writes, “Environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior.” The spaces we find ourselves in—how they’re arranged and the things within our reach – can either serve us or work against us in our attempts to become our best selves.

But there is a space, where we spend a copious amount of time, that we may have overlooked as an environment: our smartphones.

For better or worse, we go about our daily lives in this digital palm-sized space. For better, it’s a place where we connect with our loved ones and colleagues, meet new people, run errands, learn, work, explore, create, and take breaks. For worse, it’s a place that distracts us for too long and too often, drains our energy, and erodes our mental health without us knowing it. We now live with the twitch — that darn reflex to grab your phone the moment a notification pops up or you get just a little bit of downtime.

Last year, it hit me just how much my phone consumed my life. And I resented it. I thought, this calls for drastic measures. So I purged my phone of social media and entertainment platforms, turned off all notifications, whittled down my home screen to eight apps, then dramatically changed my wallpaper to that Antoine de Saint-Exupery quote, “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

But as refreshing as it was to see such an empty screen, I slowly began to realize how unrealistic it was. For one, it didn’t make sense to fully disengage at a time of social isolation and when virtual methods are the only way to get things done. Secondly, I’m a normal person who likes staying updated on certain things. Lastly, I realized that there are so many ways I can use this device to further myself and my goals.

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Ria Tagulinao
Forge
Writer for

Fun-sized Filipina Writer | To stay up-to-date with my work, here's my Sunday newsletter: http://riatagulinao.substack.com