How to Customize iPhone Focus Mode

May 9, 2023 • Zachary Amos


iPhone Focus Mode is the perfect way to silence unwanted notifications without missing an urgent call from a friend or an important text from a family member. How can you customize what notifications are are not muted when Focus Mode is turned on, though? 

Customizing Focus Mode is easy and takes just a few simple taps. This guide covers how Focus Mode works and how you can create a customized Focus Mode profile. 

Default iPhone Focus Mode Explained

iPhone Focus Mode is an expansion of the “Do Not Disturb” setting that allows you to selectively mute certain types of notifications. For example, you might want to silence your phone for a meeting but worry about missing an important call from your doctor. You can use Focus mode to silence all notifications except for those from your doctor’s contact. 

By default, Focus Mode has a few different pre-made options: Personal, Work and Sleep. You can also find the classic “Do Not Disturb” mode in the Focus Mode menu. The main difference between the different Focus Mode options and the “Do Not Disturb” mode is the way notifications are silenced. 

“Do Not Disturb” mode simply silences your notifications. If you wake up your phone, you will see them like usual. In Focus Mode, you can wake up your phone without seeing your notifications right away. You can also choose which types of notifications Focus Mode doesn’t mute so you don’t miss important messages. 

Personal, Work, and Sleep Mode

Customizing iPhone Focus Mode settings is very easy. There are a few built-in modes Apple has ready to go by default. Each of these are made for one of a few common situations where you might want to silence some of your notifications: Personal, Work and Sleep. 

You can customize all of these in the Focus Mode settings through either the Settings app or the Control Center. Accessing the Control Center works differently on different iPhones – if you don’t have the home button, swipe down from the top right corner. If your iPhone does have the home button, swipe up from the bottom of your screen. 

Personal Mode silences work-related notifications. Only messages and calls from contacts marked as family and friends will get through, as well as notifications from selected apps. You can choose which contacts get to bypass this Focus Mode in the Personal Mode settings. 

Work Mode is the opposite of Personal Mode. It is meant to help you focus on work-related tasks, so distracting apps like social media are temporarily muted. Your iPhone will only notifications from select contacts and apps. 

Sleep Mode has a unique Focus Mode feature called Sleep Schedule. You can set up this feature in the Health app on your iPhone. When you have your Sleep Schedule set up, Sleep Focus Mode will automatically turn on at an assigned time to help you wind down for the night and remind you it’s time to go to bed. You can select contacts and apps that Sleep Mode can’t mute, just like in the other Focus Modes.  

How to Create Your Own iPhone Focus Mode

You can create a custom iPhone Focus Mode if the basic Focus Mode options aren’t a good fit for you. Creating a new Focus Mode only takes a few minutes. Once you create it, you’ll be able to activate it any time from your iPhone’s Control Center. 

1. Pull Up the Control Center and Select “Focus”

The first step to customize your own iPhone Focus Mode is to access the Control Center by swiping up from the bottom screen of your iPhone. Select the “Focus” widget, which will pull up your current Focus Mode options. At the bottom of this list will be a plus sign icon labeled “New Focus”. Select this option to get started on a custom Focus Mode. 

Alternatively, you can select a pre-made Focus Mode and press the three dots symbol beside it to customize it. These options are also available through the Focus menu in the Settings app. 

When you first select “New Focus”, you’ll get a list of extra pre-made options to choose from, such as Gaming or Reading. You can customize any of these options or select “Custom” to create a completely new Focus Mode. 

2. Name the New Focus Mode

When you select a new custom Focus Mode you will first be prompted to name it and choose a color and icon. You can name the mode whatever you like, as long as it doesn’t match any existing Focus Modes. 

Choose something short and clearly identifiable. For example, if you want a Focus Mode specifically for when you’re at soccer practice, simply name it “Soccer”. After you choose your name, color and icon, hit the “Next” button at the bottom of your screen. 

3. Select Apps and Contacts to Mute or Allow

The next page is where the bulk of your custom Focus Mode’s settings are located. Here you can select the contacts and apps you don’t want muted. 

Remember, adding people and apps in the Focus Mode’s settings will NOT mute their notifications. These are the notifications you don’t want to miss while your custom Focus Mode is turned on. Common examples include family, close friends, your boss or any important apps like a timer app. 

Just don’t forget to turn off Focus Mode when you don’t need it. If you think you’re missing calls or notifications on your iPhone, double check that you didn’t accidentally leave any of your Focus Modes turned on. 

For additional notification settings, scroll to the bottom of your custom Focus Mode settings and find the “Focus Filters” option. This allows you to change how notifications appear when you are in Focus Mode. You can customize the filters for each Focus Mode separately. 

In your custom Focus Mode settings, you can also customize the way your screen looks when you have the Focus Mode turned on. Your iPhone will automatically switch back to your normal home screen and lock screen once Focus Mode is turned off. 

Setting custom screen appearances for Focus Mode is a good way to remind yourself that you’re supposed to be focusing whenever you pick up your phone. If you have an Apple Watch, you can also customize your watch face for Focus Modes. 

4. (Optional) Set a Custom Focus Mode Schedule

If you are using Focus Mode for an event or activity that happens regularly at a consistent time, you can choose to schedule it. Setting a schedule for your custom Focus Mode will automatically turn it on and off for you at set times. 

You can manually set up your own schedule or you can use Apple’s “Smart Activation” feature. This option will automatically turn on your Focus Mode based on certain hints your iPhone picks up. For example, your location data might tell your iPhone that you always arrive at the office everyday by 9:00 AM. Smart Activation will allow your iPhone Focus Mode to automatically turn on whenever your location data shows you have arrived at the office. 

Using iPhone Focus Mode Your Way

iPhone Focus Mode can be a super helpful feature for all kinds of situations, like studying or going to a meeting. It gives you more control over how notifications are muted compared to the classic “Do Not Disturb” mode. Apple provides a few preset Focus Mode options, including Work, Personal and Sleep. Creating your own custom Focus Mode takes just a few taps in your iPhone’s Focus Mode settings.