Focus hack: How to use Do Not Disturb mode on your computer, phone, and tablet

Imagine this: You’re just getting into the zone on a hard project, when all of a sudden a notification gets shoved in your face from your boss about tomorrow’s meeting. Not a big deal. But you stop and check it out of habit.

Then, as you’re getting back to work, a Slack message pops up telling you Brian’s going for lunch. Nice to know, I guess?

Back to work and… what’s this? Irene shared a Google Doc… Ok. What was I doing again???

There are a lot of times where notifications are more disruptive than helpful. Even if you’d appreciate them under normal circumstances.

You could be giving a presentation, talking over some new designs with a partner, giving a demo on Zoom or GoToMeeting (only to have everyone’s attention drawn away by your incoming Outlook notifications), or simply just wanting to focus on something without being interrupted.

Luckily, all major operating systems have thought of this and have a way to break free from all that noise. Once you learn how quick and easy it is, you’ll have a new tactic for protecting your focus when you need it most.

Get to know Do Not Disturb mode for all your devices

Do not disturb mode is a wonderful feature that’s available on pretty much every device, but flies a little under the radar. Many people know it exists, but don’t realize just how easy it is to turn on when you need it the most.

If you want to quickly turn off distracting notifications, here’s where to find Do Not Disturb, and the easiest way to enable it on all major platforms:

Windows “Focus Assist”

On Windows, Do Not Disturb mode is called “Focus Assist” and can be activated when you:

  • Right click on the notification icon on the taskbar.
  • Select Focus assist and set it to ‘Alarms only’

Total effort: 2 clicks

Windows Do Not Disturb Mode

Note that ‘focus assist’ was called ‘quiet hours’ until the most recent version of Windows 10.

macOS

This is the quickest of the whole bunch. Simply hold down the ‘option’ key and click the notification center icon. You will see the icon grey out, and then you’re in Do Not Disturb mode.

Total effort: One click (plus holding down the option key)

MacOS Do Not Disturb mode

Need more help with your focus? RescueTime blocks distracting sites and gives you actionable insights into how you’re spending your digital time. Sign up for free here

Android

To enable Do Not Disturb on Android, just swipe down to show your notifications. You should see an icon that looks like this in the row at the top:
Android DND icon

Tapping this will turn Do Not Disturb mode on.

Total effort: One swipe + one tap

Android Do not Disturb mode

It’s worth noting that if you’re using RescueTime Premium, Do Not Disturb mode can be automatically triggered on your Android device whenever you start a FocusTime session.

iOS

On Apple devices, Do Not Disturb can be found when you:

  • Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to launch Control Center.
  • Tap the Do Not Disturb button (It looks like a crescent moon)

Total effort: One swipe + one tap

iOS Do Not Disturb mode

Chromebook

Lastly, if you’re using a Chromebook, all it takes to turn on Do Not Disturb is to:

  • Click the notifications tray to show your most recent notifications
  • Click the Do Not Disturb icon at the bottom of the notifications panel

Total effort: two clicks

Chromebook Do Not Disturb Mode

That’s it! You’ve just freed yourself from the constant nagging of notifications.

What about all the notifications I missed?

To turn notifications back on, just run through the same steps above. Any notifications that came in while you were in Do Not Disturb mode will be there waiting for you in the notification center.


If you have the time, doing a full notification audit is a really good idea for the long term. But knowing how to flip on Do Not Disturb mode is great when you’re in a jam and need notifications disabled immediately.

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Robby Macdonell

CEO at RescueTime