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Innovation

How to create a custom Focus in macOS Monterey to avoid unnecessary distractions

If you're tired of a constant barrage of notifications on macOS, with Monterey you can create automated schedules of when certain contacts are allowed to interrupt you. Jack Wallen shows you how.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer on
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With Monterey, several very handy features were brought to life in macOS. One such feature that doesn't get nearly the attention it should is called Focus. With Focus, you define what notifications are shown when a particular Focus is active. Say, for example, you create a focus called Writing, where you require an absolute minimum amount of distractions. However, there is one particular contact (say your agent or your spouse) that you do want to allow as a distraction (for obvious reasons). With Focus, you can do just that -- create a focus that will only allow those notifications you specific to be able to interrupt your flow.

And we all know how important flow is. A few seconds of setback can take you minutes to recover from (especially when you're in the zone). 

So, how do you create this custom Flow? Let me show you. All you'll need to make this work is either a MacBook Pro/Air or an iMac running macOS Monterey or newer. With such a device at the ready, let's get our Focus on.

Create a custom Focus

1. Open System Preferences

Click on the Apple menu in the top left corner of your desktop. From the resulting pop-up menu, click System Preferences.

2. Access Notifications & Focus

In the System Preferences window (Figure 1), click Notifications & Focus.

The macOS System Preferences window.

Figure 1: The Notifications & Focus entry in System Preferences.

Image: Jack Wallen

3. Open the Focus tab

Once Notifications & Focus is opened, click the Focus tab (Figure 2).

The Notification & Focus section of macOS System Preferences.

Figure 2: You'll find a single pre-configured Focus for Do Not Disturb already available.

Image: Jack Wallen

4. Create the new Focus

Click + at the bottom left corner of the window and select Custom (Figure 3).

The Focus type pop-up menu.

Figure 3: Creating a custom Focus in macOS Monterey.

Image: Jack Wallen

In the resulting window (Figure 4), give the new Focus a name and select a color and an icon.

The Focus naming popup.

Figure 4: Naming your new Focus.

Image: Jack Wallen

After naming and selecting a color/icon, click Add to save the new Focus.

5. Allowing specific notifications

The next thing to do is to specific contacts or apps that will be allowed when this Focus is enabled. To do that, click + under Allowed Notifications From (Figure 5).

The Focus configuration window in macOS Monterey.

Figure 5: It's time to add people and/or apps that will be allowed to interrupt your workflow to the Focus.

Image: Jack Wallen

From the pop-up list, select the contact(s) you want to be allowed to interrupt you when this focus is enabled and click Add (Figure 6).

The Focus contact selector.

Figure 6: Adding contacts to a Focus in macOS Monterey.

Image: Jack Wallen

6. Set the Focus to be enabled

You can either enable the new Focus manually (by moving the ON/OFF slider to ON, or you can set a schedule. To set a schedule, click + at the bottom of the Turn On Automatically section and then select Add Time Based Automation. In the resulting pop-up (Figure 7), select a time frame and days of the week for when you'd like the new Focus to be enabled.

The Focus scheduler.

Figure 7: Setting an automated schedule for your new Focus.

Image: Jack Wallen

Click Add, and you're done. The new Focus will be enabled, and you can be sure that only the contacts you've allowed will be able to interrupt your work (at least via macOS). 

Use this new Focus feature wisely, and it will help you be more productive while not preventing you from missing out on important notifications from your VIP contacts.

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