How to Use Focus Assist in Windows 11

Customize which apps can get your attention when you are busy

What to Know

  • Press WIN+A, and then press Focus assist to turn it on.
  • Go to Settings > System > Focus assist to choose which apps can still get your attention.
  • Create Focus sessions with the Clock app to schedule in breaks and track your concentration dedication.

This article describes how to use Focus assist in Windows 11 to prevent or minimize apps from stealing your focus. We'll look at how to edit the options to customize it to your liking, and how to turn it on manually or automatically.

How Do I Turn on Focus Assist?

The fastest way to get into focus mode is to select the battery, network, or volume icon to the left of the clock on the taskbar—or use WIN+A—and then choose Focus assist. Select it once for Priority only, or twice for Alarms only.

The Focus assist button highlighted from the Windows task bar.

Focus assist will start automatically if you duplicate your display, when you're playing a game, or when you're using an app in full screen mode. You can prevent those actions from turning it on by editing the Focus assist settings, which are explained below.

You'll know if Focus assist is already on if you see a moon icon at the far right of the taskbar, to the right of the time.

Now that you know the short method of enabling Focus Assist with all the default settings enacted, here's how you can customize this feature. Below is everything else you need to know about Windows 11's focus mode.

How to Set Up Focus Assist

The Focus assist button in the image above simply toggles it on or off. You'll need to open Settings to customize which notifications you want to see and hear, and to configure automatic rules.

Focus assist is available in some early versions of Windows 11, but not the latest build.

  1. Open Settings (search for it from the taskbar), and go to System > Focus assist.

    The Windows 11 Focus assist settings page.
  2. The first section lets you turn the two different modes on or off—Priority only lets you choose apps you still want to see notifications from, and Alarms only provides alarm alerts, but hides all other notifications.

    Select one to immediately start Focus assist in that mode. The same can be accomplished directly from the taskbar as described above.

  3. Select Customize priority list under Priority only if you want to pick which notifications are allowed to bypass Focus assist.

    Windows 11 Focus assist priority list settings, highlighted.

    You can permit calls and reminders to come through, notifications from pinned contacts, and notifications from any app in the list on that page.

    Select Add an app to include any other app you want to see notifications for. Or, to remove one, choose it and press Remove.

  4. Scroll down to the Automatic rules area to customize those options:

    • During these times: Choose a start and end time for when Focus assist should automatically start/end. It can repeat daily or just on the weekend or weekdays.
    • When I'm duplicating my display: Turn this on to stop notifications when you're duplicating the display to another monitor.
    • When I'm playing a game: Full screen games can trigger Focus assist if you turn this on.
    • When I'm using an app in full screen mode only: Similar to the game mode, this option suppresses notifications if you're using an app in full screen mode.
    • For the first hour after a Windows feature update: This one is just as self-explanatory.
    Focus assist time settings

Is Focus Assist the Same as Quiet Hours?

Focus assist is called quiet hours in earlier versions of Windows 10. The two are not 100 percent identical, since there are some differences, but the idea behind the features are the same.

How to Set Up Focus Sessions

Focus assist is just one way to zero in on your tasks in Windows 11. You can also use Focus sessions for targeted concentration periods broken up by breaks. This option is built-in to the Clock app.

  1. Search for and open Clock from the taskbar's search bar.

  2. Select Get started on the Focus sessions tab.

    The Welcome to focus sessions screen with the Get started button highlighted.
  3. This page has several options you can play around with:

    • Choose how long you want the session to last.
    • Pick a daily goal, from 30 minutes to 8 hours.
    • Define Microsoft To Do tasks for the session.
    • Listen to music or podcasts on Spotify during the session by choosing Link your Spotify.
    Windows 11 Focus sessions options
  4. Select Settings at the bottom-left if you want to change the focus and/or break period duration, pick different alarm sounds, or toggle the Spotify or To Do tile visibility.

    Examples of Windows 11 focus sessions settings highlighted.
  5. Return to the Focus sessions tab, and select Start focus session to begin.

  • Does Windows 11 have Focus Mode?

    Some builds of Windows 11 include Focus Assist. Check for Windows updates if the above directions don't work for you.

  • Why does Focus Assist keep turning on?

    If Focus Assist seems to activate itself, you should first check to see if anyone's set rules for it. Go to Settings > System > Focus Assist and turn off anything that's active. You can also try restarting your computer.

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