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I came across this post on Minimalism Life that talks about a simplicity framework.

Now, you know me, and you know I love frameworks, whether I’m testing them or creating them or debunking them.

So let’s see if I can come up with my own list that reflects where I am right now (not the best mentally or physically, unfortunately).

Need Less

  • Anxiety
  • Negativity (people and energy)
  • Self-criticism
  • Blame
  • Comparing with other people
  • Guilt
  • Sluggishness

Need More

  • Consistency
  • Patience
  • Gratitude
  • Clarity
  • Writing
  • Making space for other people
  • Movement

What’s On My Phone, ft. the iOS 14 App Library

I’ve always been glued to my phone.

Obviously, it’s not the best habit. Countless people have written countless pieces of content about how it distracts you from your goals, makes you depressed, more compulsive… the list goes on.

When I got the battery replaced those weeks ago, I wandered around the shopping mall for two hours without my phone. Now, I know it was only two hours, but the phone also serves as my watch, odometer, book reader, music player, on top of the actual phone functions.

I wish I could say that those two hours were revolutionary, and that it gave me better focus and clarity in my quest for productivity. Instead, I found myself just glad to be reunited with it at the end (and with a way better battery life!).

I’ve recently finished Make Time by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky, which I thoroughly enjoyed. There are lots of experiments to try, and since a fair bit of it revolves around making your phone work for you instead of the other way around, I thought it was a good time for me to update my mental model.

This is my previous set-up:

As you can see, the second page consists of apps already classified into categories – something that the App Library actually does automatically.

Here is the new set-up:

I’ve removed a row of apps from the home screen — apps that were creating noise, like Mail, and apps that I really don’t use that often, like the actual phone app.

I’m also using the Almost All White wallpaper by Hideaki Nakatani, just to hide the background color of the dock. The apps on the dock are ones that I use on a daily basis, and is part of my nightly recap, so it made sense in my head to make a distinction from the other apps.

There are a few things that pain me about the App Library, thought:

  • The lack of customizing what gets shown as a ‘big’ icon in each folder: If something is already on the home screen, maybe it shouldn’t be featured in the folder so that the user can have better access to other apps in their phone eco-system
  • Lumping Productivity and Finance as a category: That folder is by far my largest, with 13 apps. I would very much like to de-couple these into their own folders
  • This might just be a me just-not-being-able-to-find-things thing, but when I add new apps, it doesn’t show up — either in the Recently Added folder or its corresponding category — I would have to search for the app, and launch it for it to appear

Other than that, I’m hoping that this will at least curb some of the distractions that my phone causes me. I’ll deep dive into Make Time since it deserves its own post at some point!

(Also — I’ve been replaying 80 Days by Inkle Studios and it’s still as captivating as my first (dozen) plays in 2014. Still solid!)

On Photo Storage & Google’s Take-Backsies

“Noooooo,” I typed dramatically to my chats after taking a screenshot of this storage change from Google. To recap: From June 2021, high quality photos uploaded to Google Photos will count towards the storage limit, instead of the current unlimited uploading.

I’ve talked a little before my digital clutter in general, and glossed over how my cloud storage is set up. I’ve had Dropbox for years before I let it lapse this year, and was planning on getting a Google One subscription. That is, until I realized that photo storage was going to be a non-issue with Google Photos, and held off getting a plan.

Until now.

Honestly, that pause for effect is a little unwarranted — it’s $28/year for me, and a manageable amount for the value it would bring.

Of my digital assets, photos and videos storage remain the thing that is the most cluttered for me. I don’t take the time to go through each photo and only keep things that matter. Screenshots make up a not-insignificant percentage of my images.

Occupational hazard, you might say.

So, I guess this is as good a time to carve a new intentional practice with my images:

  • Review the photos and videos on my phone and delete bad and irrelevant files on an ongoing basis
  • Create automated workflows to shift other files where they need to be:
    • Store design-related screenshots on a Figma board
    • Upload important images and screenshots on Notion
    • Back up important images and videos via the Google Photos app

Now, off I go to delete some photos.

When is it time to upgrade a device?

I love gadgets, and I’ll be the first to admit that I love Apple and its products. I have: an iPhone X; the AirPods with a wireless charging case, and I’m typing this from a MacBook Pro. For a while, I was contemplating buying an iPad, or an Apple Watch.

I got neither. Instead, as with a lot of things, I took too long to decide and lost interest in getting them. 1For now.

Fun little side story: In 2006, when I was but an impressionable freshman, I came up with a pitch in 15 minutes for an ‘MacPhone’. This is pre-iPhone, and you can see a speech outline I drafted. Everything about it, from the features to the price point, makes me laugh now.

More than being an Apple fan, though, I also generally love technology and the gadgets it demands. Considering that my day job almost entirely relies on my skills and expertise in designing apps and experiences on these devices, keeping up ahead of the curve is almost mandatory.

The upgrading dilemma

Then there is the minimalist and fiscally-conscious part of me.

To that end, I have a framework for when I upgrade my devices:

  • Is the device is on the verge of death?
  • Are there workarounds to pull the device back from the brink?
  • Is there is a feature on the upgrade I absolutely can’t not have?

In March 2017, when my iPhone 6 fell with me into the water while I was kayaking and died an instant death, I used a loaner Android unit until the iPhone X got released. And even then! I waited a whole month and a half to actually get the device, if my receipt trails are to be believed, since I only got it on December 21 of that same year. 2It was released on November 3.

Why I’m thinking of upgrading

Recently, my iPhone X has been giving me plenty of usage problems — It goes from 100% to 10% in about 20 minutes when all I’m doing is listening to a podcast, or have the Libby app open. It also overheats, sometimes for no reason at all.

The most worrying incident happened about two weeks ago, when it died almost instantly as I unplugged it from its cable. When I eventually – harrowingly – got it to switch on again, a service notice tells me that the phone “experienced an unexpected shutdown because the battery was unable to deliver the necessary peak power”.

I’m not sure what it meant technically, but it also assured me it would not happen again.

So, my interest was piqued when Apple announced the new lineup of the phones.

Another story! When the iPhone 8 and iPhone X was released, I was part of the team at work who had to be in the office at 3 in the morning to receive the specs and images from Apple, when we then updated our page – typically the page with the most traffic all year round. Fun times.

But here’s the brief rundown: My initial reaction was one of overwhelm, at the similar sounding model names.

Then I’m just underwhelmed.

And… that’s why I’m not upgrading

To make things easier for myself, let’s go back to my framework of upgrading my device.

Is the device is on the verge of death?

Yes, very much so. I can’t keep relying on my external power bank, especially if I’m just going out for a quick grocery run or an actual walk, so this is mission critical for me.

Are there workarounds to pull the device back from the brink?

Two, actually: I can get a new battery replacement for $99, or I can get a smart battery case for $199. Compared to $1,299 for the base iPhone 12 model, those seem like a steal.

Is there is a feature on the upgrade I absolutely can’t not have?

Some of the biggest updates on the new iPhones are a little exciting, I won’t pretend they aren’t — Higher quality photos and videos are always appreciated; I like the sound of 5G speeds, but I’m hooked up to my wifi anyway while working from home; and more efficient charging so I can find new ways to fuck up my new battery, probably. (I kid.)

At the end of the day, though, my iPhone X still serves all my needs. I’m content with the speed that I can use my apps to read, listen to music and podcasts, and play my games. I’m still largely a content consumer than a content creator, much less one who needs the latest and greatest photo and video taking abilities — and even then, I would assume I’ll need more specific tools for those at a more advanced stage, and that the iPhone X still has the capacity for that at my basic entry level!

Yeah. I guess I’ll hold on for a few more cycles.

(There’s also a metaphor here, about my own mental battery and my own surge capacity being so messed up. Can someone replace my battery? Anyone?)