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Start the new year with a screen cleaning

Every now and then I like to do a digital cleaning.

Sometimes that means pulling the plug out of the socket completely and frolicking in the woods, like on the weekend I went camping Devil’s path in the catskills last month. In other cases, it means taking a break from the notifications to stroll the neighborhood, usually while listening to an audiobook. (Less often, a failure of an Internet service offers unexpected security. Thanks, Slack.)

Another of my favorite cleanups: rearranging my phone’s home screen. The start of a new year seems to be an equally good time for this year, which is why I am now sharing it with you.

A screenshot of my phone’s home screen from January 2021.

You will find the usual suspects are absent – no email, no Google Services, not social media. I’ve moved most of these apps to a cluttered secondary screen. The fewer distractions, the better.

My guiding principle has less to do with utility and more with pursuit. I want my phone to not necessarily reflect who I am but who I want to be.

That may sound hokey, but it’s based on some scientific evidence. When James Clear pounds home Atomic habits, a manual for the human mind that I strongly recommend, is one of the most effective ways to get into better routines create a new identity.

The person I want to be involves a combination of health (Peloton, Health app), education (Duolingo, Libby) and efficiency (Otter.ai, Dashlane). I prefer Mozilla Firefox’s Focus web browser over Google Chrome because it has advanced privacy features. The weather and calendar widgets are largely self-explanatory and provide useful information at a glance.

Cleanups like this app reorg work. I have completed a 728-day Mandarin study period since moving Duolingo to my home screen. Dashlane now stores over 300 of my passwords – all strings of random letters, numbers, and symbols – with no headache. I read, or rather listened to, two dozen books last year, the majority on Libby. (Currently I am consuming The dark forest by Liu Cixin, the second book in his Remembering the earth’s past Trilogy.) One day, I swear I’ll get my daily average step count to 10,000. (Currently there are around 7,000.)

What apps will help you become who you want to be? I recommend calling 2021 by doubling them up and showing them on your home screen.

Robert Hackett

Twitter: @ Rhhackett

robert.hackett@fortune.com

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