May 29, 2016

Hide visually triggering apps from your homescreen

Don’t know how I missed this post1 from January by Tristan Harris: Distracted in 2016? Reboot Your Phone with Mindfulness.

The whole article is really worth a read, but one section resonated with my empty content calories App diet:

As part of its generous employee perks and benefits, Google stocks its micro-kitchens with seductive snacks and candy so its employees can keep snacking during work. But they ran into a problem: employees found themselves eating more unhealthy snacks than they wanted.


They made two interventions:

  1. They put the candy into opaque, white porcelain jars with a lid (while putting alternatives like healthy fruit in see-through glass jars)
  2. They replaced the candy’s visual packaging with a neutral white placard and neutral font (e.g. “Peanut M & M’s” written in Comic Sans)


We can do the same for apps on our home screens. Colorful app icons (the blue Facebook [F], or yellow-orange Instagram camera) visually trigger us to unconsciously consume just like candy wrappers.

His recommendation is to place the visually triggering Apps on the second folder page of the second homescreen. I instantly saw the light with this idea. So Tweetbot, Reeder and Instagram are back on the phone… but out of easy reach — and it seems to be working.

I truly think digital dieting is going to be a thing in the upcoming years. Many tecnologies have been competing for attention during the last century (books, newspapers, home movies, videogames, etc), but the bandwidth was so limited — and the costs so high — that it was easy to not be overwhelmed. The smartphone changed everything, and now we have unlimited stimulation for a very low costs (paid in cash or advertisement viewing.

  1. It bubbled up to my attention thanks to Owen Williams Charged Newsletter↩︎

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