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What is Focus on iPhone?

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You finally met your goal of getting to bed early.


Ten minutes to meditate are yours at last.

Bzz. Bzz.

The assignment you’re working on is due today, and you’ve set everything else aside to complete it.

Bzz. Bzz. Bzz.

Text messages and other notifications can be helpful and welcome when the time is right. But, they can also be distracting when you’re trying to focus. That’s where Focus on iPhone can help.

if you’re an iPhone user, you can use Focus to keep interruptions at a minimum based on your personal preferences—the key is knowing how to set it up. iPhone Focus mode offers lots of customizations, letting you decide when, how, and where you get what notifications, so they show up only when you want them to.

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What is Focus Status on iPhone?

Focus is a feature from Apple on iPhones that lets you minimize distractions and set boundaries on your phone.

The Focus feature lets you concentrate on a specific activity, such as work, personal time, or sleep, and even create a custom Focus for specific circumstances you specify.

Focus was released with iOS 15, which launched in 2021. Since then, it has become a favorite iPhone feature of everyone from new parents trying to catch some sleep, students in need of uninterrupted time to read or study, work-from-home types juggling multiple projects, and just about anyone else looking to clear a little space and time to focus on what matters.

Since Apple lets you share across devices, you can also activate Focus on your Apple Watch, laptop, and other Apple devices. Just be sure to sign all your devices into your Apple ID account (the same one you use for iCloud), and Focus will silence notifications everywhere, giving you the peace you need to get things done without distraction.

How to Set Up Focus on iPhone

To set up Focus on your iPhone, go to Focus in the Settings menu. You’ll see a list of Focus modes, including Do Not Disturb, Personal, Sleep, and Work.

Each Focus mode works pretty much the same way, with a few differences specific to each. Think of them as bookmarks with convenient names to quickly change settings based on circumstances—although you’ll probably want to prioritize some settings over others depending on the Focus (as detailed in the individual sections below).

To change the settings of a Focus mode, tap the arrow next to it. You’ll see a screen of options.

Allow Notifications

This options area lets you specify which people and specific apps can reach you when turning on a given Focus mode.

In your phone's notification settings, tap Options to manage how notifications appear. You can then choose whether silenced notifications are visible on the lock screen,  control if apps you've hidden from your home screen can still display notification badges, and decide if silenced notifications remain silent even after you unlock your phone.

Here, you can even set the lock screen to dim when turning on a particular Focus mode.

Customize Screens

You can choose the lock screen that will activate when you enter a given Focus mode. You can use your favorite wallpaper without any apps visible or specific home screen pages with apps.

In this settings area, you can also select the Apple Watch face you want to see when Focus is active.

Set a Schedule

While you can set a schedule in any of the Focus modes, you may find the ability to do so especially useful for the Sleep Focus.

In this settings area, you can create a schedule for when a given Focus mode turns on or off. 

For Focus modes other than Sleep, you can enable Smart Activation, which automatically activates Focus based on such factors as your location and how you use your apps.

Focus Filters

The Focus Filters settings screen lets you fine-tune the behaviors of supported apps when Focus mode is on. For example, you can set the Apple Calendar app to show only your work calendar and not your personal calendar events while in Work Focus.

See more in the “How to Add Focus Filters” section below.

How to Set Up Sleep Focus

Sleep Focus includes integration with your iPhone’s built-in Health app to monitor your sleep data, which is especially useful when you have an Apple Watch tracking your motion and heart rate during the night.

Sleep Focus includes a wind-down setting in the Set a Schedule area. You can select anywhere from 15 minutes to three hours before your phone's Sleep Focus activates to remind you to get ready for bed, at which point your phone turns off notifications per your specifications.

Sleep Focus also provides options (in the Customize Screens settings area) to display the time or simplify the lock screen, which is useful for bedside use.

How to Set Up Work Focus

Work Focus behaves like the others, but if you consistently work at a specific location, consider setting it to activate when you get there.

First, make sure you have set a work location. Open the Apple Maps app (included with every iPhone). Under Favorites, tap the Add button, type in your work address, and select My Work in the Type area. When your contact card pops up, tap Update to save it as your Work location.

Now that you have saved your work location, go to Focus in the Settings app. Select Work and scroll down to Set a Schedule. Tap Add Schedule, then tap Location, and select Work.

How to Set Up Personal Focus

Want to silence work notifications after hours? You can use Personal Focus to let only the people and apps you choose get through.

Open the Focus settings from the Settings app. Tap the arrow beside Personal. Under Allow Notifications, select the people and apps whose notifications you want to allow notifications from or silence.

You can also allow calls from people you have designated as Favorites. To identify someone as a Favorite, open their contact card in the Contacts app and scroll down to the Add to Favorites option.

How to Set Up Custom Focus

A Custom Focus is for any set of Focus parameters that don’t fit neatly into one of the other categories.

To create one, go to Focus from the Settings app. Tap the plus sign at the top right of the screen. On the next screen, tap Custom, type a name for your new Focus mode, and select an icon.

Tap Customize Focus, then choose from the standard options available to all Focus modes.

How to Add Focus Filters

Focus filters give you more control over how supported apps, including text and email apps, behave when a given Focus is active. Want to ensure you don’t miss texts from your partner or emails from work? You can set these options with Focus Filters.

Open the Focus options from Settings. Tap the Focus (Personal, Sleep, Work, etc.) to which you want to add a filter. Scroll down to Focus Filters and tap Add Filter. On the next screen, tap an app whose behavior you want to modify while in Focus.

You can also set the Focus mode to activate your phone’s Dark Mode and Low Power Mode on this screen.

How to Quickly Turn on Focus Mode

To turn on a Focus mode, swipe down from the top right corner of your screen to open the Control Center.

Tap Focus and select the Focus mode you want to activate. You can also choose a duration or set it to turn off when you leave your current location. To quickly silence all notifications, open Control Center, tap Focus, then Do Not Disturb.

The icon and name of the active Focus mode appear at the bottom of your lock screen, letting you know you’re in Focus mode.

You can also tie a Focus mode to a particular lock screen.

Press your lock screen until options appear. Then, swipe to another lock screen n or create a new one.

Tap Focus at the bottom of your selected lock screen and choose a Focus mode. Tap to close the selection options.

Now, whenever you select that lock screen, the Focus mode you have tied it to will activate. (Conversely, your phone will switch to the lock screen when you activate the corresponding Focus mode.)

To activate a Focus mode on your Apple Watch, press the side button beside the crown to bring up the Control Center. Tap the icon that looks like a quarter moon to select the Focus you want. On your laptop, click the Control Center icon in the menu bar at the top right of your screen.

The Bottom Line

It’s easy to get distracted by our social media, apps, work requirements, and “always available” culture, but a good night’s sleep, focused work, and other important activities require fewer notifications and distractions to do them justice. iPhone’s Focus mode is a great way to dial them back.

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