How to Set Up and Use Apple Focus Mode on Mac 

How many times have you tried to focus on a task and had a notification pop up or the urge to quickly check Facebook? To help eliminate these distractions, you can use Apple Focus mode on your Mac. Discover how to create different Focus modes for various activities, enabling you to work without interruptions.

Are you on Windows instead? Check out these Focus Assist companion apps.

How to Create a Focus

  1. To access Focus features, start by launching the System Settings app from your Dock or use the Apple icon in the menu bar and click the button labeled "System Settings."
System Settings in the menu bar o nMac
  1. Select "Focus" from the left sidebar.
Focus in the Mac System Settings

Tip: along with Focus modes, you can boost productivity and limit distractions by disabling screenshot thumbnail previews on your Mac.

How to Use a Built-in Focus

Apple provides you with a few Focus modes to choose from, including Do Not Disturb, Driving, Sleep, and Work. You can use one of the preset Focus modes on Mac or create one of your own. Let’s take a look at how to do both:

  1. To see more options, select "Add Focus" at the bottom of the list.
Add Focus in the Mac Settings
  1. There are options for Gaming, Mindfulness, Personal, and Reading. Select one of these options, then use the instructions shown later in this tutorial to configure.
Premade Focus modes on Mac

How to Create a Custom Focus

  1. To create your own Focus mode, select "Add Focus," then choose "Custom."
Custom in the Focus Mode list on Mac
  1. Give your Focus a name at the top, select a color for its icon, then pick the icon at the bottom. Select "OK" to save the Focus mode and add it to the list.
Custom Focus Mode name, color, and icon on Mac
  1. Select your new Focus and follow along for the setup options shown below.
Custom Focus selected for setup on Mac

FYI: if you need to stay focused while using your phone, check out these mobile apps that will help you focus and study.

How to Customize Your Focus Mode

Once you choose the type of Focus you want or create a custom one, you can set up several settings to customize how it works. This includes notifications, a schedule, and app filters.

As Mac notifications can be huge distractions, you can choose which ones you want to see while using your Focus mode. This includes those from your contacts and apps:

How to Allow Notifications from Contacts

  1. Select "Allowed People" to choose contacts you want to receive notifications from or silence during your Focus time.
Allowed People in the Focus settings on Mac
  1. In the drop-down on the top right, choose whether you want to "Allow Some People" or "Silence Some People."
Allowed Some People for a Focus on Mac
  1. Use the "Add People" button to add those contacts you want to allow or silence.
Add People for a Focus on Mac
  1. Choose a contact and click "Add." Continue this process for each additional contact.
Pick Allowed People for a Focus on Mac
  1. In the "Allow Calls From" section, choose who you want to allows calls from during your Focus.
Allow Calls From toggle for a Focus on Mac
  1. Turn the toggle for "Allow Repeated Calls" on or off. With this setting on, you can receive a second call from the same person within three minutes without it being silenced.
Allow Repeated Calls toggle for a Focus on Mac
  1. When you finish adjusting these settings, click “Done” to save them.
Done button for allowed people

Good to know: have you tried the Pomodoro technique? Learn more about it and these Pomodoro timers to help you stay focused.

How to Allow Apps

  1. Select "Allowed Apps" to choose which apps you want to receive notifications from or silence during your Focus time.
Allowed Apps for a Focus on Mac
  1. In the drop-down on the top right, choose whether you want to "Allow Some Apps" or "Silence Some Apps."
Allowed Some Apps for a Focus on Mac
  1. Use the "Add" button to add those applications you want to allow or silence.
Add Allowed Apps for a Focus on Mac
  1. Pick an app and click "Add." Continue this process for each additional app.
Pick Allowed Apps for a Focus on Mac
  1. Turn the toggle for "Time Sensitive Notifications" on or off. With this setting on, apps that aren’t on your Allowed Apps list can send notifications that are marked as "Time Sensitive."
Allowed Apps Time Sensitive toggle on Mac
  1. When you finish adjusting these settings, click “Done” to save them.
Done button for allowed apps

How to Set a Schedule for Your Focus

While you can manually turn on your Focus mode when you’re ready to use it, which we describe below, you can also put it on a schedule. This is helpful for something like a Work Focus where you may use it from 9am to 4pm Monday through Friday, for example.

  1. Select the "Add Schedule" button below the header labeled "Set a Schedule."
Add Schedule for a Focus on Mac
  1. Choose whether you’d like to base the schedule on time, location, or an app.
  • Time: set the "From" and "To" times and pick the days of the week for it to repeat.
  • Location: search for and select a location to trigger the Focus to turn on.
  • App: choose an app that turns the Focus on when you open it.
Pick the schedule type for a Focus on Mac
  1. When you finish, you’ll see the schedule you selected in the "Set a Schedule" section for the Focus.
Added a schedule for a Focus on Mac
  1. To edit or remove a schedule, select it in the "Set a Schedule" section and make your changes or click “Delete Schedule.”
Edit or delete a Focus schedule

Tip: learn how to use Live Text with Photos and Videos on Mac.

How to Apply a Focus Filter

While the above Focus settings came along in macOS Monterey, the Focus Filters feature was introduced with macOS Ventura. To use the feature, make sure you have updated to the latest version of macOS.

  1. Select "Add Filter" below "Focus Filters."
Add Filter for a Focus on Mac
  1. You can then choose how the Calendar, Mail, Messages, and Safari apps behave when you use the Focus mode:
  • Calendar: choose which calendar displays while using the Focus mode.
  • Mail: choose which inboxes display during the Focus mode.
  • Messages: see only messages from those on your Allowed People list or from everyone.
  • Safari: select a specific tab group you’ve set up in Safari. You can also turn on the toggle to open external links during your Focus time in the Focus Tab Group you choose.
Pick a filter for a Focus on Mac
  1. When you choose one of the above Focus Filters, select "Add" to add it to your list.
Picked a filter for a Focus on Mac
  1. You’ll see your selections in the "Focus Filters" section for that Focus.
Added a Filter Focus on Mac
  1. To edit or remove a filter, select it in the "Focus Filters" section and make your changes or click “Delete App Filter.”
Edit or delete a Focus filter

Understanding Apple Focus Mode Settings

There are two other settings that you can adjust that apply to your different Focus modes. On the main Focus screen in System Settings, you’ll see these at the bottom of your Focus list.

How to Share Focus Modes Across Devices

If you use an iPhone or iPad in addition to a Mac, you can enable the toggle titled "Share across devices" to share the Focus with those devices as well. When you turn on a Focus, it’ll apply to those devices at the same time.

Share Across Devices settings for a Focus on Mac

How to Set Focus Status Permissions

When your Focus is on, you can display a "Focus Status" in Messages, letting others know you’ve silenced notifications.

  1. Select "Focus Status," then use the toggle at the top to turn this feature on.
Focus Status settings on Mac
  1. Enable the toggle(s) for the Focus mode(s) you want to apply this setting to from your list.
Focus status settings on Mac
  1. When others see your Focus Status, they can choose to notify you anyway by selecting that option.
Focus notification in Messages on Mac

Note: your contacts cannot see which Focus mode you are using.

Tip: supercharge your shortcut menu with these Mac apps.

How to Manually Turn a Focus On or Off

If you set a schedule for your Focus as described above, you’ll see a notification on your Mac when it turns on. Follow the instructions below to manually turn on a Focus when you’re ready to use it.

  1. To turn a Focus on or off, use the Control Center on macOS. If you also want the Focus button in your menu bar, go to "System Settings -> Control Center". You'll see "Don't Show in Menu Bar" pre-selected for you. Pick “Always Show in Menu Bar” or “Show When Active” next to Focus to display it in the menu bar.
Control Center menu bar settings for Focus on Mac
  1. In the Control Center (or menu bar), choose “Focus” and select the Focus mode you want to enable, which will highlight it, then choose the duration of the Focus. The duration options may vary depending on the time of day or your current activity.
Enable a Focus in the Control Center
  1. To turn off a Focus, return to the Control Center or menu bar, choose “Focus,” and deselect the active Focus. You shouldn’t see any Focus modes highlighted.
No Focus modes enabled in the Control Center

Tip: if you want to quickly turn off your current Focus or turn on the Do Not Disturb Focus, hold your Option key as you select the date and time in the menu bar. You’ll see the date and time dim when a Focus mode is on and bright when it’s off.

How to Delete a Focus Mode

If you set up a Focus mode that you no longer want, you can simply remove it. Head to "System Settings > Focus" where you initially set it up.

  1. Select the Focus and click “Delete Focus” on the bottom right.
Delete Focus button on Mac
  1. Confirm by choosing “Delete Focus” in the subsequent pop-up window.
Confirm Delete for a Focus on Mac

Tip: take a look at these helpful Mac tips for when you’re working from home.

Frequently Asked Questions

Did Focus replace Do Not Disturb?

Focus is a more enhanced version of Do Not Disturb, which is still available as a Focus mode option. By improving the feature and options, you can create various focuses for different purposes and customize the settings.

How do I enable Focus mode on iPhone?

Open “Settings” and select “Focus.” Choose one of the premade Focus modes or use the plus sign on the top right to create a custom Focus.

How do I turn on Focus on Mac but not on iPhone?

Head to "System Settings -> Focus" on Mac and turn off the toggle for “Share Across Devices.”

Image credit: Pixabay. All screenshots by Sandy Writtenhouse.

Sandy Writtenhouse

With her BS in Information Technology, Sandy worked for many years in the IT industry as a Project Manager, Department Manager, and PMO Lead. She wanted to help others learn how technology can enrich business and personal lives and has shared her suggestions and how-tos across thousands of articles.

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