Is There an App for That? Here Are Some Questions to Ask First.

Judith Guertin Posted in Getting Organized

Is There an App for That?  Here Are Some Questions to Ask First.

“So, is there an app for that?”
Most likely the answer is yes, there are hundreds of tools that will all “do” what you are looking for: tasks, calendars, to-do, scanning, notetaking, photo editing and many other things. If you are like some of my clients, you can open the app store on your phone in seconds, and find all the apps that do, “that thing you want” just as quickly.

When I am asked this question, I am tempted to simply ask, why? Why do you need another app? Maybe this is the perfect question, but often the better question to ask first is: “What tools do you already have that do the same thing.” Just as in residential organizing we often find multiple tools that do approximately the same thing. Do we need them all? Probably not. For example, in my kitchen I had, all types of knives, choppers and a small food processor. The all do many of the same tasks, however I noticed that most days my go to tool was my favorite sharp knife over all the bigger, harder to retrieve options. One day, when I did take out the mini-processor, (a hand me down from my Mom), it broke. I was sad that it was hers and it broke, but I was not so upset that I felt I needed a new one, because my trusty knife was ready and waiting in the drawer.

Recently, I sat with a client who wanted to show me her new iPad Pro. I was taken aback by how many apps there were. I saw 5 pages of apps, many containing folders that contained still more apps. Some of the folders had three or more screens of apps nested inside. I took a deep breath and asked what she saw. Her response was, “what do you mean?” I responded, that when I looked at the home screen(s) I felt a sense of overwhelm. There were easily hundreds of apps. Yes, you read correctly, there were hundreds! She confirmed that when she looked at her device now, she felt it too. Many of them were installed to try them out, but then were never deleted. They were taking over!

How long do you think it would take you to find any one of those apps? Now there will be those of you who have fully mastered search who will say, this is not an issue, simply open search and type the app you want and voila! That is provided you remember the name of the app you are seeking. However, you are still seeing screens and screens full of digital clutter. They are taking up room in your cloud, they are using up resources on your devices. If you have them on multiple devices the problem is only compounded. I say this because today when we looked at her iPhone, there they were, all the same apps in all their glory. I must also mention that many of them had the little red notification number bubbles announcing how many new items “needed” attention - 66, 74, 27…(these are apps that are not being used…they were evaluated and found lacking), but they still call out with their red bubbles, “look at me, make decisions about me!!!” … My little internal voice wanted to scream back… “Hey, who is driving this bus??? Stop telling her how to run her life!!! You are not even being used and yet you are taking her precious time and attention!!!”

So, after this conversation (my internal one, and the person to person conversation with my client…) we developed a plan to create a toolkit of the tools that are used regularly.

The goal is to focus your attention. Create a strategy that will help you pay attention to the right things, at the right time. Here are some of the things we discussed.

Remove tools that no longer serve.
Turn off notifications except for messages (Slack), and primary work email. All other tools that offer notifications will have notifications turned off. Instead of the constant battle with the bubbles, they will be checked at a certain time of day, or on a regular day of the week or month.
Make a recurring calendar entry for apps you need to check on regularly, set a reminder.
Gather apps into groups that are related in a common way. This will show the variety of apps that, “do the same thing”.
Consider further editing of tools to distill down to the tools that are used regularly, and that offer the best user experience. Say good bye to the tools that are only meh! Remember there will be no perfect tools.
You can stop looking anytime you think you have a winner that meets most of your expectations.
Take the time to learn the full capabilities and how to use the ones you need. Check out YouTube or as I like to call it the University of YouTube or LinkedIn Learning and you will find lots of resources to help you. If you are a visual learner like many of my clients. You will not only learn the steps but see them in action!

Here are some examples of ways to group apps:

Frequency of Use (opened daily)
Apple Apps: Pages, Keynote, Numbers,
Browsers: Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Edge…
Camera: Gallery, Google Photos, Photo Editing Apps
Cloud Storage: Google Drive, One Drive, iCloud, Box, DropBox, Sharefile
Entertainment: TV, XM Sirius Radio, Prime Music, Apple Music, Podcasts
Google Apps: YouTube, Gmail, Google Sheets, Google Docs, Google Slides
Messaging: Slack, HipChat, Snap Chat, Messenger
News / Weather
Notetaking: One Note, Evernote, Google Keep, Notion
Office Apps (Microsoft), Word, Excel, PowerPoint, One Note
Payment Portals: PayPal, Square, Google Wallet, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay
Productivity: Trello, Airtable, Nozbe, Asana
Reading: Good Reads, Kindle, Library Apps
Ridesharing: Uber, Lyft
Security: Anti-Virus Programs, Password Managers
Shopping: Amazon, Microsoft Office Store, Apple App Store, Play Store
Social Media: LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest
Time Tracking
Utilities: Calculator, Clock, Timer, Stopwatch, Etc.
Video Calling and Meetings: Zoom, Facetime, Skype, Free Conference Call

Now that you have identified and categorized all your apps, the next step was where to store them? Do you want to see them all in an alphabetical list, grouped by the type of thing they do? Do you like having them in folders?

Here is a list of things to consider (you will notice both Android and Apple References, use whatever applies to your devices)

1. Leave them all as they are and master the art of search.
2. One page for the apps that are used daily. Could be a meld of personal and professional.
3. Folders for apps by platform: Apple, Microsoft, Google, Samsung,
4. Favorite apps might deserve a a slot on the dock. Check the apps you have docked to see if they are really the apps you want there.
5. Separate pages for personal apps and  professional / work apps.
6. Security on all devices is key. Decide how to use your home screen. Do what seems right for you. Lock your home screen with a strong password, fingerprint, iris, or facial recognition lock or some combination.Some clients like to put apps that are for financial or sensitive data into folders but buried in the second or third page of the folder behind other common apps, so they do not call attention to them. Enable two factor authentication when appropriate.
7. Consider which page your most important apps will be seen. Prying eyes are everywhere.. Do not take risks with your data.

I hope this will help you think about ways to improve your user experience and your focus. I wish you all a productive day! If you need help, pleaase reach out to me, I would love to help.

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