What's On My Home Screen Right Now?

Drawing my home screen just now, and each individual element on it, turned out to be remarkably interesting. It gave me the chance to think about it all from scratch. What’s working, what isn’t?

I’m going to start at the top left, move right, then down…

Top line

  1. Two bars on my phone signal. Not untypical, on a sweltering day of thunderstorms.
  2. O2-UK. I have previously been with Vodafone, but O2 suits me fine. Nothing to report.
  3. 4G. I have been deeply frustrated with Wifi recently, and up here in the converted loft I rely entirely on mobile data. Also, see below.
  4. 14.45. Well, that’s when I happened to draw it.
  5. 79% battery. The battery on this particular handset (iPhone 6S, iOS 13.4.1) is dreadful. I turn off Wifi and Bluetooth to save battery.


First Row.

  • Calculator. Rarely use it. Doesn’t need to be on first screen of apps, let alone top-left. Should move it really.

Google Maps.
Quite good, something I rely on, but I don’t like it much.
Why is that?
I guess because it’s part of the great Google monster that has swallowed my life up.

Calendar. This works quite well. Despite that, I also keep appointments on paper. I’ve written something elsewhere on this site about how I do that, using a log of events in the six months ahead, another for the current month, and a third for each day. Sounds time-consuming, and I suppose it is, but I find it extremely helpful.

Evernote. I’ve got tons of material saved on Evernote. I rarely go back to look at it, despite having taken care (mostly) to tag the various notes, and use key words that should be intuitively searchable in future. I have realised in the last couple of years that I simply prefer to have things on paper. The sheer boundlessness of Evernote makes me feel slightly dizzy.

Second Row.

Settings. I mostly go in here to change the setting for auto-lock (how quickly the screen shuts off).
Normally it’s set to go dark after 1 minute, but I quite often have to time people speaking on Zoom, in which case I set it to “never” for the duration of the meeting.

I don’t use the flash, I don’t use HDR, and I don’t use Live photos.
I practically never set a timer, though I quite like the way it works.
Like many people nowadays I have taken a few selfies.
But on the whole I dislike selfies – my own and the wider selfie culture.

Photos. I can’t work out why this phone doesn’t sync with the vast amount of photos I have stored on the iCloud, which is really annoying.

  • The last square on this row contains a bunch of apps related to audio, including Sound Recorder, which I have occasionally used to record interviews (journalism) and the Apple Podcast app, which I use quite a lot, actually.

Third Row.

Notes. I love this app. I use it to store repeating content, like certain kinds of hashtags on images I post. Also to make and share shopping lists (I like the list to start with the bits that you encounter on first walking into the supermarket, eg, fruit and veg, and to continue along my “normal” pathway through the supermarket (often Waitrose at Finchley Road, since you ask). I like using the feature that lets me tick items as they go into my shopping trolley. I’m mad about lists.

  • Monzo. Phone banking. I like it enormously.
  • Kindle. Rarely use it on the phone, now that I have an iPad. Should probably delete.

A rather splendid way to aggregate (collect) RSS feeds from websites and newsletters I enjoy, and make notes thereon.

Fourth Row.

Only when drawing this logo did I realise what it means: the V at the bottom is an open book, and the rest is basically a Wifi signal.
Quite clever, I suppose.
But perhaps not, because I didn’t get it till just now.

Spotify. I like Spotify, have sometimes used it a lot, listening to the same artists and playlists and “radio” stations again and again and again. Some music I only know from having learned about it on Spotify. I like to play a game of “musical dominos” with my daughter, taking some theme or aspect of a particular song and taking turns to choose the next song accordingly.

BBC Sounds. Used to listen a lot on my old phone. Several programmes I have subscribed to, and binged on, Netflix-style. I particularly enjoy listening to, say, The World At One, at whatever time I happen to have chosen to eat my lunch – ie, after it’s already started, but from the beginning. Not even logged in yet on this phone. I hate this phone.

Anchor podcast app. I use this to make my own podcast, it’s very simple and I like it. I never listen to other podcasts on it. Anchor is owned by Spotify now, and you can listen to my podcast there (and pretty well any other podcast app, to be honest).

Fifth Row.

An app to make scheduling easier. I have found it a great help. I have used the free version in the past but currently have the cheapest paid option.
I use Calendly to schedule “office hours” with members of my Special Projects group, and my Whizzy Group.

Slack. Slack is terrific, and I used it as the place for messaging between members of the first Whizzy Group. It’s like having my own Facebook Group or LinkedIn Group, without all the distraction. Unfortunately, the individuals in the Whizzy Group were kicked out after some weeks, because unlike me they didn’t have paid accounts. I’ve not found anything to be as satisfying subsequently, and I think if I do another Whizzy Group I’ll insist people sign up. (Not very expensive.)

Not at all sure, yet.
Relatively new (to me) app that’s supposed to stop me being distracted by apps and websites.
I jumped right in to the paid version, but it’s really not helping me at all.

Twitter. Joined Twitter a long time ago. Spent about three years off it after having a breakdown, felt absolutely terrified about all the noise and showing off there. Have very slowly gone back in. I’m @jpflintoff

Sixth Row.

Works very well, but I keep all notifications off.
I used to just mute noisy groups, but even that was too stressful. I regularly miss Whatsapp messages till too late to act on them.
Sorry about that.

  • Find Your Fit. App for my local gym, a chain, which provides helpful information about how busy the gym is at any given time of day. Reminds me that I haven’t been for a few days, might go after writing this.
  • Bunch of apps relating to prayer and meditation.

Instagram. I’m @jpflintoff


I do have notifications showing on this app, but I don’t always rush to see what they are. Partly this is because I have the phone on Do Not Disturb a lot of the time, and in Airplane mode too, so there’s often a message or two waiting for me.

Currently 167 unread emails, coming in from two different email accounts.
That’s higher than usual.
I try to keep it to about 100 for peace of mind. Completely artificial threshold, but there we are.1

I keep various windows open. At the time of writing they include: The Backless Chair, Spiritual Direction, Writing Lives, iSmash, The Art of Rhetoric, 35 Times People Were Confused By The English Language, Roden, Paris Review Art of Fiction No. 81, John-Paul Flintoff (home page), Artist Statement, Everyday Writing, Periodical Literature (Wikipedia), Bullet Journal, Book Review: The Bookseller of Florence, Log In To Your Paypal Account, Eight Wishes Workshop, Mind Over Tech.

I like to use this sometimes, instead of Zoom. It’s restful not to have to stare at anything in particular. I’m pretty hopeless at picking up voicemail, however.

Thank you for reading. I can’t imagine what you make of this.

Posted: 16 Jun, 2021



1 On 29 June, having done a mini-course encouraging me to log my use of email, and coming across a tweet by somebody else about this, I deleted the email app from my phone. This feels liberating, but I’m not sure how long it will last.
On 5 July, I discover that removing the mail app has not reduced the amount of time I spent on my phone last week (it’s up by 5 mins, daily). Nor has it reduced the number of notifications. Only marginally down is the number of times I pick up my phone (49, compared with 50 previously).