My Home Screen and Mental Health, Part 1

Nov. 26th, 2018

I'd like to apologize in advance if I'm covering ground twice on some of these points. However, sometimes it's the specific wording or timing that allows information to sink in.

I’ve talked before about the benefits of certain aspects of technology for mental health and specifically ADHD. This blog post is going to take an in-depth look at my phone, specifically the first page of apps, and why they are given this prominent position. Part two is here.


The cornerstone of my life and my productivity. Everything I do in the course of a day that’s predictable goes in here, including meals, sleep, and routines. This protects these vital areas and gives me a more realistic idea of what I can get done in a day or a week, by looking at how much time is left. It also goes some way to preventing hyperfocus from chewing through my boring self-care time. Seeing often is believing for those of us with ADHD and setting a daily calendar item called “sleep” from 10PM to 8AM proves that this activity is real, for me.


This “app”, for lack of a better word, was on my homescreen, in this position, from the first day I owned a smartphone. The time it takes to pause to input a password or ignore a notification or figure out where something is located isn’t that much. Until you multiply that by dozens of times a day, plus ADHD, plus the 23 minutes studies have shown it takes even typically developing people to return to a task after an interruption. So Settings is one of my best friends and keeps me in control of at least this aspect of my focus.

Two areas of my smartphone settings are critical for me. The Do Not Disturb feature (instructions for iOS and Android here) which I have on a schedule from 10PM to 8AM so friends and clients alike can message me whenever they want, and I can still get the sleep I need. (And my emergency contacts are allowed through any time so I’m reachable during a 3AM crisis.) And notification management. My brain interrupts my focus often enough without non-essential pings from my smartphone. I’ve set up a section of my morning routine for checking all messaging apps and after that 90% of personal messages are screened. I don’t allow notifications from any non-messaging apps other than reminders I’ve purposefully set up.

Google Keep

Google has recently overhauled a lot of their G Suite tools and it was then that I started using Google Keep. I know some who use it as their primary task management app. I use it as my “Inbox”. Anything I don’t want to forget about (tasks, ideas, projects, links, recipes, concepts for D&D, writing tidbits, images of things I want to knit, something I want to tell someone in person the next time I see them) is dumped into Google Keep. I then process everything into their appropriate locations once a week. I also occasionally use it for location reminders.

This is a foundational principle of Getting Things Done. Everything we are trying to remember needs to be recorded somewhere. A great thing about the Inbox system for ADHD specifically is it gives us a couple of filters for the tsunami of ideas we can produce. The first is when I go to record something in Google Keep and the next is when I go to move it out. Both times I can pause and say to myself “Is this worth my energy to organize?” Which can have any number of answers, including “Yes, but because it takes less than 2 minutes I’m going to do it right now instead of putting it into my task management system.”


The number one thing I use photos for is to be able to process things the way my brain naturally wants to. For example, I have the image of my homescreen up on my phone as I’m typing this blog post. It is faster and more efficient for me to use this visual reference while writing than to consult written notes. Sometimes I pull up an image on my tablet and words on my phone, so I can access both while working on a project. While I’m writing fiction, I have the map of my fictional world open and visible at all times.

I also use photos to store information I want on hand, but not on a physical piece of paper. Business cards, license plate, food package (to find in a store), to do list, notes for writing, they can all be stored where they won’t be lost.

It can also be used as a timeline for visual success! Words that say “I cleaned the bathroom today even though I really didn’t want to” are great, but for me, there’s nothing quite so satisfying as a picture of that clean bathroom.


Ah notes, possibly one of the most underappreciated apps of all time. The main thing notes do for me, and I’ve heard the same from a few different clients, is it frees me from worry about producing a perfect or even finished product. If I sit down at a document in a word processor, that blinking cursor just seems to want what I set down to be something worthwhile.

In notes, the implication is ‘quick and dirty’. I use it to store multiple things to copy and paste, write something when I’m not quite sure what I’m even trying to do, to keep a record of what songs I like to dance to on Dance Dance Revolution, a list of songs to use for my bard character in D&D, or anything else that isn’t fully formed and may never be.


I have a habit of checking the weather most mornings, but particularly during transitional seasons. Weather patterns seem to have grown increasingly unpredictable, but at least the forecast can give me some clue. I’m all about layers in terms of clothing, to begin with, but it aggravates my sensory sensitivities no end when I’ve put on too many or, worse, not enough. And while I am not made of sugar, nor salt, and thus have a low chance of melting, heavy rain during a walk outside makes an already motivationally challenging activity doubly so.

What technology supports your mental health?