Jan 31, 2022

Using iOS 15's focus mode to... get in flow

Dilip Ramachandran
3 min read

Updated: Feb 7, 2022

"Give me a minute; I'll be right there."

A minute turns to two, and before you know it, fifteen or twenty.

"Your food's getting cold. Are you going to join us for breakfast?" said my wife.

In my book Gangsta Vision, I touch on the importance of flow in one of the chapters.

In his book "Flow", Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defines it as "the holistic sensation that people feel when they act with total involvement."

You need to be in the focus zone to be effective and highly productive at your work. You can trade this productivity to do higher-value tasks. You operate as a force multiplier by doing this, growing your impact radius.

Simply put, the deeper you get into your work, the more you can achieve with the time that you have.

The thing about work-life integration is that you will start inserting work into every break in the schedule if you're not careful. And once you achieve flow in your career, you will justify that you need to stay in this mode.

For example, as I'm writing this book, I never know when inspiration hits. But, when it does hit, I feel strongly to stay in the focus zone. I do this because I don't want to lose that train of thought.

Since our time is finite, when we dedicate more time to work, we are drawing down on balance used for our own wellness, friends and family time.

Now there are tactics I use to control this urge. For instance, when an idea hits me, I save an audio note. Also, if I remember something I forgot to do during my workday, I create a task with a scheduled reminder for a future time and/or date.

As we work in a remote-first environment with distributed teams, someone is working at any given time. This means that mobile phone notifications are constantly pulling you back into work. That's really great to be dependable and plugged in on projects, but it has a profound impact on your life outside work.

You see, spending time with my family and friends requires focus too. I need to be in flow to really engage in the conversation. Especially when we are with minor children, we need to provide them with undivided attention. They need to know that you are present and there for them.

And mobile notifications can be a severe distraction.

I've found a straightforward system to counteract this issue through experimentation.

In this post, I'll share how I implemented this system through Apple's new focus mode feature released in iOS 15.

  1. The first thing to do is set up favorites. This ensures that, for example, my wife can always contact me in an emergency.
  2. Create dedicated home screens for your apps. I have a screen for my personal apps and another for my work apps. You might want to create one for the gym. This creates an additional layer of friction when checking work email during personal time and vice-versa.
  3. Set up app-specific do not disturb (DND) schedules. For instance, you can set up slack to not ping you on weekends. You can do the same for other messaging apps such as Microsoft Teams.
  4. Sleep focus helps me tremendously. By setting up wind down, you can settle in for a restful night of sleep. Given that my team is in Sri Lanka, I've had a team member accidentally wake me up at 3am. Microsoft Teams seems to not obey this sleep focus, so make sure to make the app-specific DND setting in step 3.
  5. You can extend focus across all your Apple devices - iPad, iPhone, Mac and Watch.
  6. When I create a personal focus, I ensure to only show the screen I configured in step 2. I also turn off any work applications.
  7. Similarly, create a work focus with the work apps home screen and pause notifications from personal email.
  8. I created a mindfulness focus that is scheduled right after I wake up. It also automatically activates when opening the books app. This particular focus blocks all notifications whatsoever.
  9. I'm not using the driving focus as it isn't very effective. Opening my navigation app or playing a song from Spotify requires me to exit the focus zone.
  10. Additionally, I've set time limits for apps like YouTube, Reddit and Twitter that tend to consume my time. By doing that, I've significantly cut down my screen time and improved quality time with my family.

You will need to adjust my suggestions to account for other apps that you use that I don't, such as Facebook and Instagram.

Hope you find this helpful. Give it a try and shoot with any questions!

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Dilip Ramachandran

Entrepreneur, Author, Dad and Product therapist

Dilip Ramachandran has over 15+ years of building teams, shipping delightful and highly successful enterprise software products in MarTech and FinTech at companies like Walmart, Experian, Marqeta and Bond.

Dilip wrote Gangsta Vision to help folks in product management to figure out their path and a plan to break into senior leadership.

At Nimi, Dilip is CEO and Chief Product Therapist helping high-growth FinTech startups with product and payments advisory and matching them with highly reliable and skilled experts in Sri Lanka. Learn more about Nimi at www.nimidev.com

Dilip has a Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania and resides in Oakland, California with his partner Alla, daughter Ariadna and son Wiley (a papillon-sheltie rescue). The family occasionally travels to Colombo, Sri Lanka for his work with Nimi.