91: Focus Modes, the Showdown

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Another brilliant podcast, thank you :blush: I love focus mode and use back-tap with a shortcut to change my Home Screens :white_check_mark:

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Loved the episode. I’ve been using Focus modes, but while listening you gave me an inspiration to solve a problem that has always bothered me:

In-Person Mode
(I need a better name.)

When I meet with someone in-person, either for work or in my personal life, I do not want to be rude and look at my phone or my watch while I am giving the other person my supposed undivided attention. But I hate going into full DND mode and miss something that needs interruption. my goal was a solution so that if my phone or watch vibrates during a meeting, it is something that requires me to interrupt the conversation and look.

Easy enough - I created a focus mode that only allows phone calls and messages from my boss, my family in NY and the Coordinators in the office. All the “work” methods of communication are off - Outlook and Teams. I can tell our coordinators that if I’m at a meeting, feel free to email or Teams and I’ll look later, but if you need my attention immediately, text me.

then I was inspired to take this a step further. I created a shortcut to trigger the focus mode by:

  • Ask for input - Time. The time that the meeting should end.
  • Turn on my focus mode until that time ends
  • Subtract 5 minutes from that time and set an alarm titled “Wrap up in 5 minutes”
  • Change my watch face from my nerdy Infograph Modular to a more stylish Contour

Excited to put it into action this week!

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I, too, enjoyed this episode.

The problem for me with Focus Modes is deciding which ones I want. When I’m working there is very little chance of drawing boundaries around focus areas. Likewise when I’m not.

And even a “I’m not working” situation isn’t as hermetically sealed as such a focus mode would suggest.

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I really loved this episode! Big thumbs up for @RosemaryOrchard and @MacSparky !

I dove further into focus modes and now use ‘a’ focus mode all the time (like David). Thanks to Rosemary I automated to set up a black wallpaper on my sleep homescreen. Even my Watch’s face change according to the focus mode I’m in. Now I challenged myself to only use 1 homscreen that’s different for every focus mode, and uses a mix of (stacked) widgets and a couple of app icons. I will see what this brings.

Keep up the amazing show(s) guys! I’m a big fan and listen to every episode.

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I created a Meditation focus mode (outside of the usual Mindfulness mode), and I wanted to trigger it using Siri. I read that it should be possible using a command such as “turn on Driving mode,” or “turn off Gaming mode.” Whenever I used Siri to “Turn On Meditation (mode),” I got Apple Music playing Enya! I even tried to rename the mode to a foreign word for meditation and got Apple Music again.

Any ideas?


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Could you also create a mode that would end when you left the current location? You could do something like “In-Person Here” for meetings with people at your home or office (where you will be staying after the meeting) and have it set up like you it is now, using a time trigger. If you meet someone at their office or home, and will be leaving when you are done with the conversation, you could call it In-Person Away and turn it off using a leave location trigger.

Just a thought. Might stir up some other uses for location triggers.


You might want/need to create a shortcut for this.

@RosemaryOrchard You mentioned in the episode you had two Slack clients. Can you tell me how you do this please?

Separating Personal / Work slack groups would be amazing!


There is a business Slack for iOS :wink:
Sadly it doesn’t work on macOS.

Thanks @RosemaryOrchard. That’s what I thought I might have to do. I’ll give it a try.

Tony - a good idea, but I’ve already run out of focus modes. how quickly 10 went.

like you, I have a meditation focus mode. I have a menu list shortcut on my main homepage, which turns on the focus mode for 20 minutes and launches the meditation app of choice.

I considered creating a shortcut that would ask if I want to turn on my mediation focus mode, and have that shortcut automatically run whenever I launch Headspace (my meditation app). 6 of one, half a dozen of the other!

Would you mind sharing what you 10 focus modes are? I’m interested in focus modes, just still trying to figure out what I would use them for

Thanks for that thought. I like your idea of a menu list to call the app. The specific problem I have is that the meditation apps I’m using do more than just meditations. There are also lectures, lessons, discussions, etc. None of these should be considered meditations, so should not have meditation time allotted to the Health app, nor should they necessarily block the same people and apps that the focus modes would.

What I was thinking of (probably a shortcut, maybe calling a focus mode), would be to add a selection, maybe after the preferred app is selected, to ask if this is a meditation session. If YES, it would open the app in mindfulness mode and end the mode when the app is closed. If NO, it would just open the app and end the shortcut.

Hope that makes sense. I haven’t tried it, but I thought I’d put it out here before I taxed my old brain too much. :brain:

I have a few focus modes but primarily what I use are work and personal. My device is in one of those two the vast bulk of the time (very occasionally others, say I’m at a movie theater)

For work, I don’t do it location based because I work for a school district, traveling between buildings occasionally. I didn’t want to have to manually type in the 30+ addresses we have. But all of these locations are in one of two cities, and I live in a third. Basically, anytime my iPhone is unplugged from Carplay it runs a shortcut that checks my location. If I’m in one of those two cities it turns on my work focus. If I’m anywhere else it turns on my personal. It is extraordinarily rare I’m in one of those cities but NOT working. For those few times, I just manually change it back to Personal.

Of course my homescreens/people/app notifications change depending on the focus.

I also have one called Streaming that I use if I’m watching tv/movies or reading comics on my iPad those locks notifications down a lot more.

My movie theater one basically locks out everybody but my wife, parents, and in-laws. aka the people who would be watching my children if I’m at a movie.

Looking at my list of who is in the streaming one I probably could combine it with the movie theater one.

John - Sorry I missed your question. here’s the quick rundown:

  1. Do Not Disturb: standard
  2. Driving: which I only really use when I’m driving with my wife in the car.
  3. In-Person Meeting: discussed above
  4. Meditation: for when I’m meditating, which still let’s a subset of personal people through. the people who I would want to interrupt me.
  5. Starbucks: a focus group that automatically turns on and off by location. this is mostly for the use of a homescreen I designed for when I’m at the coffee shop. it includes a pushcart widget that has the latest bathroom code visible, which when pushed launches a shortcut to let me update the bathroom code. go ahead, judge me.
  6. Work: Goes on automatically when I get to my office. again, this one is more about a custom set of home screens specifically when I’m at the office. very helpful
  7. Sleep: Self explanatory
  8. Unplug @ Home: Turns off notifications for my main work apps, Outlook, Teams and our phone calling app. Also turns on a home screen of apps specifically for home, like Nest, Joule, Ember, Home, Hue, etc.
  9. Unplug While Out: Same as above, but a different Home Screen of apps for when I’m on the road. I may delete this one, as I find I’m not using it all that much.
  10. Performance: This is highly specialized, and I have only used it twice, but when I do, I love it. For me, it is specifically when I’m at a live storytelling show in LA called “the Moth.” It mutes all phone calls, all messages except for my buddies in the room and my wife at home, and it has a Home Screen of just a very few apps like Ulysses, Just Press Record, etc., that I use while storytelling.

I hate that I’m using two of my valuable slots on 9&10. of course I wish I could have more slots and disable, but that’s not allowed.

my White Whale is a focus mode just for my laptop for when I’m on work zoom calls, that would NOT sync with my phone. I would like to get notifications on my iOS devices but not on my laptop during those zooms. I cannot figure out how to sync nine focus modes with all my devices but not the 10th.

Hope that helps!

it totally makes sense. I was thinking the same thing, haha!!!