Apps I use to boost my productivity and well-being while being more sustainable.

Urszula Gębska
7 min readMar 25, 2021

It is good to challenge yourself. As my top weaknesses (according to Strengths Profile — online strengths assessment) are Writing and Time Management, I have decided to challenge myself this year and start writing and practice some time management and productivity tips and tricks. And as this already sounds like self-harm, I thought I need to start writing in English — the language that is not my native. Additionally, I have never considered myself good at languages too. Yes, it looks like the pandemic made a masochist out of me…😂

Having read a few books about productivity, habits, and distractions of the modern world, I have decided to start this journey by tiding my own … home screen and apps library. With Apple iOS 14 update tackling app overload is much easier and more fun.

Step 1: Delete all the apps you do not use

Those are hard decisions (yes 1st world problems…). Keeping unnecessary apps in your phone is not only taking your device space, but it may also be bad for your battery as many apps are running in the background, unnecessarily eating your battery. That is not sustainable at all. The more you have to charge the battery, the more electricity you use, causing more fossil fuels to be burned. Battery life is also one of the causes people have to change the device to a newer version. Keeping the battery alive as much as possible, we minimalize unnecessary digital waste and save the energy needed to manufacture the new device.

  • Deleting Strava was hard: As a cycling lover, I use it quite often, but as I want to switch to the fancy new one and I decided to keep only one app that does the job... Relive is my choice for now. “Bye, Bye, Strava! We had a great time together. I may come back!”
  • I do not use all the apps I have downloaded, but this is hard to delete some of them as I believe they may serve me sometime in the future. That will never happen — delete!
  • As a designer, I keep a lot of apps as a reference, inspiration, or test. If I ever need one, I may download it from AppStore, yes? True! Delete!
  • Bye, bye Oyster card, Ryanair, Airbnb, and many more travel apps. Thanks to covid, I might not need you for the next half of a year or even longer.

Step 2: Redesign your screens to serve your needs

👉 Today view: Quick access Necessities

Swipe right to access Today View, and you will see:

  • widget with daily tasks. — Notion is a very flexible tool for writing, planning, wikis, and to-do lists, to name a few — the second brain, as some claim.
  • Forest — Pomodoro-style clever app that helps you stay focused and be present. Additionally, the “Forest team partners with a real-tree-planting organization, Trees for the Future, to plant real trees on Earth. When our users spend virtual coins they earn in Forest on planting real trees, the Forest team donates to our partner and creates planting orders.” Super cool.

“Forest works well, and if your goal is to be more in the moment, ignore your phone and actually talk to your friends when you are with them, this is the app for you.” — The New York Times.

Few more widgets I keep here:

  • Unfortunately, I can not live without music. Additionally, I really love Spotify Design🙌
  • Weather
  • Calendar
  • Battery life
  • Screen Time

🧘🏻‍♂️ Homescreen: Quotes and Affirmations

New IOS 14 really helps me be more mindful and personalize my widgets and app icons, keeping my screen far from messy.

As a start screen, I set up 2 large widgets with Quotes and Affirmations coming from apps: stoic., Motivation, and I am.

  • Stoic. daily self-care journal‬ Beautifully designed, a black and white app for daily Self-care journaling, meditation, and breath exercises. Among attractive features (overviewed nicely in this article), I love the fact that there are many options to change your preferences. Ranging from app icon color (white, black, pride) and theme (light or dark) to more advanced accessibility issues like font size, dyslexic font, and high contrast. Those simple but powerful product design decisions express inclusiveness and support for all kinds of love while embracing diversity.

Those minimalistic widgets with random affirmations remind me what is important and keeps me intrigued and guessing what is next? What wisdom of stoics or Buddhists should I learn today and reflect on?

🤓 Self Growth, Wellbeing, and Productivity

On-Screen 2, you may find only apps that serve me well, changing my behavior, habits, and wellbeing for the better.

📖 Reading and listening

✅ Productivity

  • Notion again

🧘🏻‍♂️ Wellbeing and meditation

  • The best app for mindfulness and meditation so far 🧘🏻‍♂️
  • 5 min Journal I am trying to make a habit of filling it every day as

“There are plenty of benefits to journaling, whether you take time to write out your full thoughts or just spend a few minutes jotting down the things you’re most grateful for every day or lessons you’ve learned. Five Minute Journal for the iPhone makes this process easy enough to do on the go.” — Lifehacker

🌱 Apps for sustainability

I have recently started using Ecosia as the leading search engine.

“Ecosia uses the ad revenue from your searches to plant trees where they are needed the most. By searching with

, you’re not only reforesting our planet, but you’re also empowering the communities around our planting projects to build a better future for themselves. Give it a try!”

I am introducing more and more apps that help lead a more sustainable life, like Good on you. But that is another story;)

💬 Chats, Social Media

  • Instagram I am an addict and use it for self-branding, photo journaling, inspiration, socializing, and work purposes, so deleting it may not be beneficial. Still, I set up a limit of 1h per day.🎉
  • WhatsApp
  • Slack is a powerful tool to keep connected with your workmates and virtual communities like Memorisely Tribe — a cool group for UI/UX Designers.
  • Messenger

I have added also a Vocabulary widget. While looking for WhatsApp I may glimpse and memorize a new word — clever isn't it?

👻 Purgatory

Swiping deeper to the left, you may find handy and not too distracting apps, like Banking apps, Linkedin, dictionaries, e-commerce apps like Zalando, etc. This screen is changing a bit over time. Whenever I feel I need to add a specific app, it ends up here.

😈 A Hell / App library

Yes, thanks to IOS14, we now have App Libary that groups similar apps and tidies the mess I do not have time to sort out on my own. Apps are easily accessible. There are an extensive search field and even an index. Whenever there is an outside trigger to find a specific one, I can do it with a bit of effort. But I do not let them distract me and take my valuable time.

“With new habits and new mindsets, you can stop reacting to the modern world and start actively making time for the people and activities that matter to you. This isn’t about saving time. It’s about making time for what matters.” - Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day, Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky

I wish I could delete all apps that Make Time and Digital minimalism authors encourage to do, but for now, this works. I use my mobile intentionally. I deleted unnecessary apps, restricted usage of time-consuming infinity pool apps like Instagram or Facebook either by setting time limits or hiding them. I turned off notifications — the main cause of distractions. I am now more in control of my time and life. These simple setups remind me every day what I care about: meaningful connections, my own sanity, personal development, and the environment I live in. Hopefully, I will also turn my Writing and Time-management Weaknesses into Learned Behaviours or even Strengths;)

Key Takeaways:

  • Delete every app you don't use or need for the next month.
  • Redesign your screens the way they start serving you rather than distract you from what is important.
  • Set up time limits for the most addicting apps and turn off notifications.
  • Search for apps that make some good for the environment. F.e. use instead of Google Search.
  • Stay connected but make time for yourself.
  • Stay safe. ✌️

I would love to know what apps you use that improves your productivity, wellbeing or accelerate a more sustainable lifestyle. Please share in a comment!

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