Sometimes, you just need to get stuff done — that budget spreadsheet, your novel, or even a nap — but your smartphone insists on distracting you with notifications, texts, or the pull of social media. Sure, the Do Not Disturb setting can temporarily stifle interruptions when you need quiet time or a mental break. Still, recent versions of Android and Apple’s new iOS 15 include a more flexible Focus mode with other tools for concentration. Here’s a quick guide.
Find Your Focus
In Android 12, look for the Digital Wellbeing icon in your app drawer. If you don’t see it, open the Settings icon and select Digital Wellbeing & Parental Controls; you can download the app, too. For the hands-free approach, just say, “OK, Google, open the Digital Wellbeing settings.”
The Android 12, left, and iOS 15 operating systems include a Focus mode to help minimize distractions from your phone or tablet. Credit…Google; Apple
On an Apple device running iOS 15, open the Settings icon and scroll to Focus; saying “Hey, Siri, open my Settings” works, too. On the Focus screen, you’ll see that the old Do Not Disturb setting has moved in, and you have a button to share your settings across other Apple devices, including Macs.
On Android’s Digital Wellbeing screen, tap Focus Mode. Choose the Set a Schedule option to block out the timeout you need from your phone. In the “Your distracting apps” list, select the programs you’d like to disable when Focus Mode is on. (The Manage Notifications controls in the Digital Wellbeing settings let you decide what types of alerts you get in the first place.)
To temporarily silence most calls, go back to the leading Digital Wellbeing screen, and select Do Not Disturb. Tap the People option and choose the contacts allowed to bother you when you have Do Not Disturb enabled; you can do the same for apps and turn off alarms. (Some Android phones have a Flip to Shhh setting, which puts your phone right into Do Not Disturb when you place it screen-side down.)
The iOS 15 Focus settings provide several scenarios (Work, Personal, and so on) to configure and customize based on the situation. Tap a category and select the apps and people who can interrupt you; contacts can see your Focus status displayed in the Messages app. You can set a timed schedule for each focus category or have it automatically activated by location. For example, your “Home” Focus settings pause your Slack notifications and work email when you arrive at your apartment. (If you’re working from home, use the schedule timer instead.)
Tap the plus icon on the main Focus screen to set up even more situations, like when you want to have uninterrupted reading time; you can even have Reading Focus kick in when you open your e-book app. If you don’t want to automate things, you can always swipe down to the Control Center screen and tap Focus to cloak or decloak yourself from the world.