App Minimalism, Increased Output, and the Forbes Article

I think I have become an “app minimalist.“ Below are screenshots of my homepage on the Mac and of my apps. As you can see, I have very few. One caveat on the screenshots is that even though I have Word and Excel and use them, they do not show up in the app list on the Mac. I have no idea why that is the case. But they show up if I put Word or Excel in the search box. Weird. :man_shrugging:

This Forbes article reinforces what I find to be accurate in my workflow and life. Fewer apps result in greater output. Your mileage may vary.


Yes. And I agree with the article about email: “Instead of checking email multiple times every hour, consider checking it once every two hours.” Multitasking, as many studies have shown, is a myth.

The longer you can go without checking email, the more productive you can be.


What’s confusing to me is the “app changes” in this article is a very vague term. I can’t envision most jobs having more than 4 or 5 distinct “apps” they use so I’m not sure why they say the average is 10 per hour.

I think the whole article is using “app” to mean context? That would make a lot more sense. And also means you don’t have to switch Applications (or tabs!) to have a switch that causes you to lose focus.

All that being said, preventing context switching is hard :sweat_smile: I work from the kitchen in my office and enjoy being interrupted to chat.

My reading of the piece is not, “don’t have a lot of apps” but rather “be selective and intentional in your use of apps”". Perhaps subtly different points.

My company wants us to come back to the office because they think those “casual interruptions” lead to “synergies” and “new ideas”.

I think interruptions lead to inefficiency. And given that none of my team is in the same state, or even country, as me, those synergist interruptions just ain’t happening … but I digress (I’m a bit cranky today!).

This is the thing I’m most bullish about for ML/AI. I would pay $20/month for an ML algorithm to detect when it thinks I’m trying to multitask and just ping me with a “are you sure you want to switch contexts? That’s going to cost you at least 23 minutes of focus”

Similarly, helping me to maintain a helpful tone when answering text based questions with my colleagues (even if I get exasperated or curt)

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Ohhh… so you’re the guy who uses Stage Manager on the Mac. I was wondering what single individual Apple was creating that feature for. :smile:

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That article is talking about multiple communications or business apps in the workplace, e.g., when employees are made to keep on top of email, Teams, their personal texts, PM software posts, and customer support software all at once and they’re all in separate places. And of course the cues to switch to another comms tool cannot be predicted. Here’s the original report RingCentral published.

I wouldn’t necessarily extrapolate the findings to someone picking a smart set of tools for themselves that they use intentionally.

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Do you have a third page with additional apps? Or does Launchpad show a minimum of 3 screens (3 dots at the bottom) even though the last one may be empty?

Well, now I’m embarrassed!! :grimacing: I can’t believe I didn’t notice that. I should have, given that I was “missing” apps. Sure enough, there was a third page. I assumed that because the second screen was not full, that was it.

Eating my humble pie …

Still, only a few apps. Corrected screenshot:

I couldn’t easily test to see if there was third empty page because I seemed to have accumulated a “few” apps. :grinning:

You can make as many pages as you want unless there is some limit.

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I only use one focus mode “Do Not Disturb”. But couldn’t you create one that limits the apps you could open while in that mode?

I used to compose emails to “expletive deleted” people in BBEdit so I would have time to reconsider before I pressed Send. It probably saved my job once or twice.


The problem with reducing app usage is akin to time management. Sure we can master that for ourselves but we cannot control other people’s use of our time. Back when I was a software developer/product development manager I tried to explain to my boss that their constant trivial interruptions were one of the causes of my projects not running according to plan. The Forbes article mentions a UCI study on the damage interuptions have on work. It is not only the time taken for the interuption itself but the thought processes lost immediately before it and the time to recover from it afterwards; UCI’s 25 minutes is about right and was predicted by much earlier work by the likes of Esterling who classified interuptions as completely off topic — the sort my manager used to made, to those on other related projects, and those on the specific project each of which has a different recovery time but the same immediate thought lost time.

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Maybe I misunderstand (or the author of the article did), but isn’t it smarter to decrease the number of interruptions instead of the number of Apps?

(for example by disabling as many notifications as you can)

I can have many Apps installed, but if I do deep work using only one (Xcode in my case), I think I’m fine.


In the article, it is suggested that “instead of trying to use five or six apps every hour, focus instead on two or three every day.” Most of us can’t operate effectively with just three apps, but I believe most of us can work effectively and efficiently with fewer to handle the same or similar work rather than more apps. In fact, with fewer apps to manage and fiddle with, perhaps we can be more efficient and effective, in part by becoming experts with a few apps rather than “Jack of all trades, and masters of none."

I am not trying to convince anyone. I’m just sharing that I’ve discovered, to my chagrin, that I’ve wasted far too much time using too many different apps and switching apps. That is entirely on me.

You may mean … with fewer rather than more apps to handle the same end goal. By example, I need apps to do video editing, document production, email, image and data analysis, task management, bibliography management, web research, presentation development, cloud connection, spreadsheet analysis, video conferencing, … and a few others. I would be hard pressed to be told to reduce my number of apps by finding ways to use Excel for video conferencing (or perhaps in a less obtuse example … to use Excel for the robust scientific data analysis that I demand in my work). Yet I am struggling with comparing two apps for email and three different ways for project/task management, and I could certainly in this case take to heart a message to just pick one already and get on with it.


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You are absolutely correct, I will edit my comment above to add clarity. :slightly_smiling_face:

There is also a case to be made about knowing your applications well. I find knowing my applications well often allows me to achieve things faster as well as doing things I might do in other apps because I did not realise an app I’m already using does what I need.


:joy: That is exactly what I do, in text edit or a markdown editor

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In most cases you are both right - and that is the conundrum.