• December 5, 2021

7 Ways to Customize iOS 15’s Focus Mode for Work and Play

Getting anything done on a mobile device when there are 100-plus apps vying for your attention is difficult. It’s easy to get distracted, whether it’s because of work calls or random apps that constantly notify you. That’s not even considering that casual game you keep on the home screen. To combat this distraction problem, Focus mode in iOS 15 is Apple’s attempt at helping people reclaim control over their devices.

“I like that I can have a couple of options that can be locked down in different ways. So for example, I have a Recording focus that only allows text messages from my wife and Slack messages from our VP of sales to get through to me,” says Relay FM cofounder Myke Hurley. “I also have a Work Out focus that blocks everything except the Activity app. I set up an automation in the Shortcuts app to trigger this one whenever I start a small set of workouts—so it wouldn’t go off if I was taking a walk, just when in specific exercise.”

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This iOS 15 Focus feature is an expansion of Do Not Disturb. Previously, focusing on a specific task meant a blanket moratorium from notifications getting through. Now, iOS devices can be configured with more granularity. This should make it a lot more useful for more people. Still, Focus can be overwhelming at first glance, so let’s break it down.

Setting Up Focus Mode

Photograph: Apple

Once you have iOS 15 installed, the easiest way to get started with Focus is to head to the Settings app. Apple has a few basic modes ready to go, including Do Not Disturb, Work, and Personal. Do Not Disturb blocks everything, but it can be altered. The Work and Personal ones will suggest certain people and apps to allow notifications from, but I find these suggestions to mostly revolve around recent usage.

In the Focus section, there is a plus sign in the top right corner to add your own custom areas of focus. Here, Apple has a few more suggestions such as Driving, Gaming, Exercising, Reading, and Mindfulness.

Once you choose an area of focus, there will be a few options to configure to get it fully set up. First, select the people allowed to send messages and call when the mode is active. Second, choose the apps that are allowed to get through, if any. Apps can also be filtered based on whether they are time-sensitive or not. Once the new Focus mode is set up, more settings will become available.

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