This hidden iOS 15 feature will improve your productivity

This hidden iOS 15 feature will improve your productivity

It didn’t get much screen time in Apple’s WWDC Keynote, but it’s going to be a game-changer.

I sat there, eyes glued to my computer screen — the same way I always do each June.

I had taken the afternoon off to watch the main event: Apple’s WWDC Keynote, the event where they unveil the newest version of their operating systems.

The WWDC keynote is a highly-produced event that contains a dizzying array of new features for Apple’s devices. If I’m being honest, it’s hard to keep up with the frenetic pace of everything that’s new.

Perhaps you’ve watched it online.

Perhaps (like me), you clear your calendar so you can watch it without interruptions. And when it ends, you frantically hit refresh on Apple’s website to download the betas as soon as they’re available.

This year, WWDC was the same: still highly produced. The same great demos. New features introduced so quickly you have to re-watch the whole thing just to make sure you didn’t miss anything the first time around.

But this year, something stood out to me.

It didn’t get much screen time, but I believe it’s going to be a game-changer for knowledge workers to get more done.

It’s called Focus, and it’s brilliant.


What do you want to focus on?

As a knowledge worker, I’ve long believed that the best way to use your smartphone is to make it as distraction-free as possible.

My heart rejoiced when Apple announced “Do Not Disturb” a few years back — and my phone has been on “Do Not Disturb” 24/7 ever since.

But Focus Mode is different. I’ve been using the iOS 15 betas this week, and I can confidently say that Focus is much better than Do Not Disturb.

iOS 15’s Focus Mode lets you choose which people and notifications to allow on your phone depending on the context of your current situation.

At work? Only allow work-related apps and contacts to send you notifications, and disable time-wasters like social media.

Driving? Silence notifications to keep you safe.

Home for the night? Allow entertainment apps and your personal contacts to get through to you, and leave work at the office.

Sick of relentless notifications interrupting you all the time? Batch your notifications to only arrive a few times a day.


If you’re a productivity nerd like me, this stuff is a game-changer.

Perhaps like me, you’ve read Cal Newport’s Deep Work. It’s a great book, and very useful for focusing on the highest-value work that only you can do.

In Deep Work and his other book, Digital Minimalism, Newport advises knowledge workers to turn off absolutely all notifications…but I find that a bit reductive.

Sometimes notifications are useful.

Sometimes I want to be notified of things that are important to me.

iOS 15’s Focus Mode lets me be in control. It’s no longer all or nothing.

Thanks to Focus in iOS 15, you can now set custom rules to fine-tune your notifications to your contexts, which will reduce distractions and the friction of getting meaningful work done.

To me, the biggest game-changer in Focus isn’t the custom rules for notifications — it’s the custom home screens. In iOS 15, your Home Screen can adapt based on your location, the time of day, or manual settings.

I love a minimalist workspace…but it’s not useful 100% of the time. The way I use my phone during work hours is vastly different than how I use it on a Saturday. I access different apps. Communicate with different people. Rely on different information.

Now, my phone changes throughout the day, showing me the right apps and the right notifications at precisely the right times.

In the mornings, my Home Screen shows me the news, podcasts, and reading apps, plus an overview of my schedule and the day’s weather:

During work hours, I get easier access to my calendar, and my Home Screen only shows me apps I use for work:

In the evenings, my Home Screen shows me apps to encourage a reading habit, as well as a summary of my fitness for the day:

I even have a custom “Deep Work” Focus that eliminates all distractions and mutes all notifications, turning my Home Screen into a minimalist paradise:

And if my needs ever dictate, I can manually override my phone and switch into any Focus at any time:

This wasn’t possible before, but it’s going to be a game-changer for those of us who rely on our devices to make a living.

With Focus, our technology will now serve us — not the other way around.

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