Digital Housekeeping

I dedicated a chunk of time over the past week to tackle several items that have been stuck on my to do list. Of which, the one that will have the greatest impact on my productivity is a reorganization of my home screens — iPhone, Apple TV, and iPad. But I’ve also made some improvements to Initial Charge with the addition of a Derek Sivers-style Now page alongside a couple of other small refinements.

I hate to admit it, but the decision to reorganize my home screens came about as a way of avoiding more important, difficult tasks. I have plenty of items on my to do list, but deciding which apps to tuck away in folders was nowhere near the top of it. I suppose I struggle with maintaining focus on my most important projects. I’m not happy about it, but at least I was doing something productive rather than watching yet another episode of Top Chef — the best show.

The actual process I went through for organizing my home screens probably isn’t what you’d expect. The vast majority of the work was done with pen and paper. It’s old-hat to complain about iOS’ way of reordering icons, but it’s amazing that it hasn’t really changed since it was first introduced seven or eight years ago. Throughout that time I’ve learned that the best way to do it is to actually make a list of every installed app. From there, slowly cross off apps and add them to a hand-drawn grid to visualize the final layout. At that point it’s just a matter of putting everything into place on the device itself. The process is a bit tedious, but it’s still much easier than doing it all on the device itself.

On the iPhone, I was only making changes to my second home screen. I’ve previously discussed my first home screen’s reletively stagnant layout and nothing has changed in that department. Aside from minor changes every 2-3 years, my first home screen is still strikingly similar to Apple’s original in iPhone OS 1.

I already went through this process when I was settling into the 4.7-inch display of my iPhone 6s, but much of the decisions I made on my second home screen were done hastily and without the knowledge of how the new device might change my workflows. This was an opportunity to further refine my icon organization to allow for quicker access to the apps I use most.

I knew I wanted exactly four rows of icons, exactly two folders, and no more than six apps on each of those folders’ pages — for aesthetic reasons. I also wanted to keep the passive applications — ones that function through extensions, today view widgets, background tasks, notifications, etc. — within the folders to minimize clutter and save as much space as possible for apps I actually launch.

I’ve only lived with it a few days, but I’m very happy with the results so far. I’m sure I’ll continue to refine it as my habits change, but I expect I’ll be much more efficient in my iPhone use for the foreseeable future.

I don’t have too much to say about my iPad and Apple TV home screen reorganization. My iPad is currently in, what I’d consider to be, a “rough draft” state. This is the first time I’ve organized my iPad’s home screens since I first setup the device back in February. This was simply a first-pass meant to get the ball rolling by removing unnecessary apps and putting my assumptions about how I use the device into practice. My iPad’s home screen is by no means completed — I expect there to be several more iterations over the coming months as I begin to feel confident in the layout and start making more informed decisions about where apps are best placed.

As for the Apple TV, I’ve gone through this many times in the past, this is simply another iteration of my existing home screen system. The two key differentiating factors about this reorganization is that I’m centering the focus around Hulu rather than Netflix and my primary applications now reside underneath Movies and TV Shows instead of Computers. Shifting my most used apps to below Movies and TV Shows was inevitable, I had already deleted all of the purchased content from my Mac mini’s iTunes library, instead deciding to stream it from iCloud. Eventually, I was going to become less reliant on the media I stored locally and spend more time streaming content that I’ve purchased from iTunes. That time has finally come.

The focus on Hulu took me by surprise, though. I originally signed up for the service a few months ago because my fiancée was interested in watching Once Upon a Time and Dancing with the Stars as they aired. But I was amazed at how quickly it took over the majority of our media viewing time. We’ve been churning through old seasons of Top Chef, watching the aforementioned shows from ABC, and finding new favorites like Rick and Morty. We might still be in the honeymoon phase — with access to an entire streaming service-worth of new content rather than the trickle of new TV shows and movies from Netflix. But I’m confident that Hulu will continue as our primary media source for at least a few more months as we watch our way through the best it has to offer.

In addition to my iOS housekeeping, I also took the time to tidy up a few areas of the site. I’ve added a Now page which contains a frequently updated list of the tasks and projects that I’m most focused on. My hope is that the page will help me stay on top of the things that matter most and its public nature will encourage me to actually complete the projects that I take on — I want to avoid the sinking feeling that accompanies abandoned projects or neglected tasks.

I’ve also added a hardware section to the site’s about page and refreshed the software listing as well. A lot has changed since the last time I updated the page, but now it lists all the devices and applications I currently use to produce Initial Charge and my plan is to keep it up to date as things change in the future.

One last quick change was to the contact page which now notes that direct messages are open to all Twitter users, regardless of follow status. And this is true of both Initial Charge’s Twitter account and my personal account. If you’d rather contact me privately through Twitter rather than email, the option is now much more accessible.

I feel heaps better now that I have a bunch of tasks crossed off my to do list, but I’m far from finished. The site’s been on quite the ride as of late, ever since I recommitted myself to writing more regularly. And I have plenty of ideas in store for the next 6-12 months.

I plan on adding a proper contact form to the site’s contact page, I have some ideas for a long-overdue mobile-friendly site redesign, and I have a super secret project in the works that I hope to have ready in early December. But I’m trying to give myself ample runway to complete most of these tasks.

In addition to running this site and working a full time job, I’m also in the process of planning a wedding with my fiancée and attempting to backlog Linked List items to publish several days before and after our wedding day. I have a lot on my plate, but week’s like this give me confidence that I’ll be able to get it all done within the timeframe I’ve allotted myself. And I truly look forward to sharing it all with my wonderful readers.