How many times have you been in the middle of a work project, or just relaxing at home, and you get interr—bzzt—right. As I was saying, you’re in the middle of trying to do—bzzt—sigh. Sometimes the notifications just won’t stop.

Once upon a time, it was easy. You could only add a few apps to your devices, and receiving a notification was exciting. Now, every shopping app and social network is sending constant bzzts to your phone, watch, computer, and every other device you have, begging for your attention. 

That’s why we wanted to take some time for a deep dive into the world of Apple Focus. Apple introduced Focus modes and filters a few years ago, and they’re wildly powerful — but also wildly complicated — so let’s go through how you can use Focus and Fantastical to better manage your schedule (and those distracting notifications). 

What is Focus anyway?

Think of Focus as a sort of mode selector for your Apple devices. In the same way that the iPhone’s ringer switch let’s you silence your alerts, Focus allows you to choose from different modes like Work, Personal, or Sleep, with different app and notification settings for each focus. The settings are simple but powerful. 

You can manually switch Focus Modes from the Control Center on your iPhone or Mac.

When using a focus, you can choose to block or allow notifications for messages or phone calls from specific contacts. For example on your Work Focus, you could block the family group chat whose members who won’t stop talking, and choose to only allow calls from your work colleagues and your kid’s day care.

It works the same with notifications from apps: In a Personal Focus you might choose to block notifications from apps like Slack, or to only allow notifications from certain close family and friends to prioritize personal connections.

Then there’s a super-useful feature called Focus Filters that allows apps to be customized to your particular focus. In Fantastical, this means you have the ability to choose which calendar set you are seeing in Fantastical when using a specific focus on your device. In your Work Focus, you could choose to enable the calendar set that hides your kid’s soccer schedule, while in your Personal Focus, you could ensure that shared work calendars are all hidden away.

Focus allows you to customize everything related to notifications and configure your apps in just a couple of quick steps. Once you have your focus set up, it just takes a quick tap/click in the Control Center on your device to enable it. To make it even easier, you can have a focus activate automatically at a particular time or location.

But no matter what focus you are using, you’ll need your notifications from Fantastical, right? 

Focus and Fantastical

We want to make sure you have your focus set up so that you’re always on top of your schedule. So to get started, on the Mac you’ll head to Mac System Settings > Focus, while on iPhone or iPad, you’ll go to iOS Settings > Focus. 

While you can choose to share your Focus status between all your devices — so the active focus on your Mac will also be active on your iPhone, the notification settings are separate across your devices. This means you’ll need to configure your allowed notifications on each device individually.

For notifications, you have three main options:

– All Fantastical Alerts: All notifications from Fantastical are marked as Time Sensitive, so if you choose to allow Time Sensitive Notifications in a particular Focus mode, you’ll receive all your Fantastical alerts like normal.

Alerts only for calendars in your Focus: If you give Fantastical permission to send notifications or you choose to block only certain apps (and not Fantastical), and have Time Sensitive Notifications disabled, you will receive alerts for calendars included in the enabled Focus only.

– No Fantastical alerts at all: If you turn off Time Sensitive Notifications and you don’t add Fantastical to your approved app list for notifications (or add it to your blocked list), you won’t get any alerts from your calendars no matter how important they might be.

On the Mac, make sure you always set Fantastical Helper as your allowed app to receive notifications when using a Focus.

For Calendar Sets, it’s a little more straightforward. Using the Focus Filters feature, you can choose what calendar sets are available when a particular focus is on.

For example, you could hide everything but your Work calendar set when in the Work focus, or only show your Home calendar set when not at the Office. If you only pick one calendar set to show in a particular focus, you’ll ensure that it displays whenever you’re in that mode.

A Day of Focus

Now that you know how to set up a focus with Fantastical, let’s take a look at what this might look like in action for someone that works from home.

Thanks to the focus schedule you set, your Work focus automatically activates at 9 a.m. When you open Fantastical, you’re automatically viewing your Work calendar set because you enabled it in the Focus Filter setting. Now you are only seeing your work events in Fantastical, helping you maximize your productivity.

No personal events to see here folks!

Even though you can’t see your personal events, you still don’t need to worry about missing something important since you have Time Sensitive Notifications allowed on your focus. You may not see your upcoming doctor’s appointment on your current calendar set, but you’ll still get that Time to Leave notification when you need to head out the door.

Once you make it to your appointment, you switch to your Personal Focus on your iPhone. This toggles your Fantastical calendar set from Work to Home, hiding all your shared calendars from the office so you can stop thinking about work for a few minutes. Switching focus might even save you some embarrassment when scheduling your follow up visit so you can make sure you don’t add the next appointment to the calendar you share with your boss!

After the appointment is over and you’ve made it back to your home office, toggle back to the Work Focus and your calendar set once again switches to your Work set for maximum productivity.

At 5:30 PM, your Personal focus is set to switch on automatically, reminding you to wrap up work for the day and letting you focus on any personal items you still need to take care of.

Find the focus that works best for you!

We’ve just scratched the surface with the incredible power of Focus today. There are so many options to choose from, like automatically activating a Driving focus in the car, or using a specific focus when you have an active Workout. You can even set up a Reading focus that activates when you open your Books app!

You can get more information on how to set up Fantastical with Focus in the Flexibits Support pages, and of course Apple’s Support pages have extensive explanations of all the ins and outs of Focus.

Investing a little time in your Focus modes can lead to significant productivity gains as you quiet some of those constant notifications, letting you see everything you do need and nothing you don’t. 

Good luck getting focused!