How I Keep My iPhone in Order

Published on April 30, 2013.

A few friends showed some interest in how I organize apps on my iPhone 5, so I’m going to briefly share my approach here. I’ll also share how I control the notifications so that I don’t end up in tears from never-ending flashes, beeps, and vibrations.

When I first purchased my iPhone 5 in November of 2012, I downloaded a bunch of apps right away and tried to squeeze them all onto a single home screen, grouping all of the icons into categories. This was okay for a while, but things got crowded very quickly. Also, the apps that I used most frequently were with the apps that I rarely used; this made it hard to find the one I was looking for, and easy to get distracted or tempted into doing something else entirely.

The iOS Notification Center was new to me, too. It was exciting to be able to keep my hand on the pulse of all these apps from one screen, but my excitement quickly diminished into frustration.

After using the device for a few months, I kept tabs on which apps I used the most and decided on a new approach to reduce the clutter and noise.

Three-screen approach

iphone 5 screen ios7

iOS7 lets you set a different background image for the lock screen, so I chose a photo that I took while visiting Peaks Island, Maine. For the home screens, I chose a neutral background so it would not clash with iOS7’s barf-worthy icons.

And instead of squishing all of my apps onto one home screen, I divided them up across two screens. On the first (or home) screen, I have my most-used apps in alphabetical order. On the second screen, I have my least-used apps grouped into categorized folders. On the dock, I have my four most-used apps: Messages, Phone, Photos, and Sleep Cycle.

If I use an app on the first screen less often, then I will demote it and promote a different one from the second screen that I use more often. Sometimes I will delete the app entirely if I find it’s not being used at all, or if it’s becoming a distraction (which is why I deleted the Facebook app from my phone). This has been working for me.

Prioritizing notifications

To keep the beeps and buzzes to a minimum, I started by turning off all notifications. I decided the Phone, Messages, Reminders, and Calendar apps were important, and gave them each a sound, badge, and alert. None of my other apps produce a sound or alert notification; they only have badges (yes, even Mailbox, the app I use for email). The only apps that show up in the Notification Center are Calendar and Reminders. Nothing shows up on the lock screen, unless I’m listening to music with Rdio.

I have been enjoying this setup, and I find myself spending less time derping around on my phone and more time focusing on what I want to do throughout my day.

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