How to prevent your phone from interrupting you

Sometimes you just need to get some stuff ended – that budget spreadsheet, your novel, or even a nap – but your smartphone insists on distracting you with notifications, texts, or social media pull. Of course, the Do Not Disturb setting can temporarily muffle interruptions when you need some quiet time or a mental break, but recent versions of Android and that of Apple new iOS 15 include a more flexible Focus mode with other focus tools. Here is a quick guide.

In Android 12, find the Digital well-being 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 much. For the hands-free approach, just say “OK, Google, open digital wellness settings”.

Credit…Google; Apple

On an Apple device running iOS 15, open the Settings icon and scroll to To concentrate; saying “Hey, Siri, open my settings” also works. On the Focus screen, you will see that the old Do not disturb the setting has been moved and you have a button to share your settings with other Apple devices, including Macs.

On the Android Digital Wellbeing screen, tap Focus mode. Choose the Set a schedule option to block the timeout you need from your phone. In the “Your distracting apps” list, select the programs you want to turn off when Focus mode is on. (The Manage notifications the controls in the Digital Wellbeing settings let you decide which types of alerts you receive in the first place.)

To temporarily end most calls, return to the Digital Wellbeing main screen and select Do not disturb. Tap the People option and choose which contacts are allowed to disturb you when you have Do not disturb enabled; you can do the same for apps and turn off alarms. (Some Android phones have a Return to the Shhh parameter, which puts your phone directly into do not disturb mode when you place it screen side down.)

IOS 15’s Focus settings offer several scenarios (Work, Personal, etc.) to configure and customize depending on the situation. Tap a category and select the apps and people that can interrupt you; contacts can see your Focus status displayed in the Messages app. You can set a schedule for each focus category, or turn it on automatically by location – for example, your “Home” focus settings pause your Slack notifications and work emails when you arrive in your apartment. (If you work from home, use the scheduler instead.)

Tap the plus icon on the main debugging screen to set up even more situations, such as when you want to have uninterrupted reading time; you can even activate Reading Focus when you open your eBook app. If you don’t want to automate things, you can always swipe down to the Control Center screen and hit Focus to hide or reveal yourself from the world.

Screen timers just aren’t for kids! If you’re drawn to games and videos when you’re supposed to be working, have your phone save you from yourself.

In Android’s Digital Wellbeing settings, tap Dashboard and set timers for specific apps. (Programs you’ve already placed in the distracting apps list will be grayed out and unusable until you turn Focus mode off.)

In iOS 15’s Focus settings, each of your Focus scenarios includes controls for your Home and Lock screens. Tap the Home screen option to hide notification badges on apps. When you turn on the Custom pages setting, you can hide home screens where you keep your most distracting (and fun) apps.

In the lock screen settings, set the screen to dim and have your muted notifications appear on it discreetly – or not. IOS settings have a Screen time section where you can set time limits for apps.

If you want to normalize your sleep schedule – or break the habit of staying awake too late by scrolling in bed – here’s some help. With Android, open the Clock application and tap the Bedtime icon in the lower right corner. You can set your sleep hours and choose a relaxing soundscape to clear your mind.

In Digital Wellbeing settings, tap Bedtime mode to add other sleep incentives, like activating your Do Not Disturb shield, turning the screen on in black and white, or just keeping it off.

IOS 15’s focus settings also include a Sleep option, which you can configure like your Work scenario and other Focus scenarios.

This attention at bedtime is linked to Sleep function in the Apple Health app, where you can calendar your sleep hours, set your alarms and select your Shortcuts to relax – which can include a set amount of time for listening to music, meditating or any other relaxing activity while you fall asleep without interruption (by your phone, anyway).

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