How to Set Allowed or Silenced People & Apps in a Focus Mode

Focus modes can be customized to either allow or silence certain contacts and apps.

* This post is part of iPhone Life's Tip of the Day newsletter. . *

iOS 16 lets you specify which contacts and apps you wish to allow or not allow notifications from while your Focus is on. While allowing certain contacts and apps to notify you during a Focus was possible with iOS 15, silencing them is a new iOS 16 feature. I’ll explain how and when you’ll want to do this!

Related: How to Use Focus Mode

Why You’ll Love This Tip

  • Creating a list of contacts or apps to allow or silence can help create boundaries between work and free time.
  • It can be easier to silence certain contacts and apps when customizing a Focus mode.

How to Customize a Focus Mode by Setting People & App Permissions

I’ll go through setting up allowed or silenced people first and then apps. You can skip to step 14 to jump to app customization steps. For more productivity-boosting Focus mode tutorials, sign up for our free Tip of the Day! To customize your Focus mode:

  1. Open the Control Center on your iPhone by swiping down from the top-right corner of your screen.

    Open the Control Center on your iPhone by swiping down from the top-right corner of your screen.
  2. Tap Focus.

    Tap Focus.
  3. Here you will see some preset Focus modes such as Do Not Disturb. Tap the three dots to customize the respective Focus mode.

    Tap the three dots to customize the respective Focus mode.
  4. Tap People in the Focus customization menu.

    Tap the three dots to customize the respective Focus mode.
  5. Depending on what’s easier, you can either silence notifications from certain contacts or allow them by tapping either Silence Notifications From or Allow Notifications From.

    Tap People in the Focus customization menu.
  6. Next, select the contacts by tapping Add People.

    Depending on what’s easier, you can either silence notifications from certain contacts or allow them by tapping either Silence Notifications From or Allow Notifications From.
  7. Tap the circle(s) next to the contacts you wish to add. You can use the Search bar and type their name to save you time.

    Next, select the contacts by tapping Add People.
  8. Once you have all your contacts selected, tap Done. You will now see the contacts you selected.

    Tap the circle(s) next to the contacts you wish to add. You can use the Search bar and type their name to save you time.
  9. If you wish to remove someone you accidentally added, tap the minus icon, and they will disappear.

    If you wish to remove someone you accidentally added, tap the minus icon, and they will disappear.
  10. Depending on whether you decide to Silence or Allow notifications, you'll see different options for customizing phone call permissions. If you selected to Silence certain contacts, you can toggle Allow Calls from Silenced People on or off.

     If you selected to Silence certain contacts, you can toggle Allow Calls from Silenced People on or off.
  11. If you select to allow notifications from certain contacts, you'll be able to select who you wish to allow calls from.

    If you select to Allow certain contacts, you'll be able to select who you wish to allow calls from.
  12. Tap Allowed People Only and make your selection between Everybody, Allowed People Only, Favorites, or Contacts Only.

    Tap Allowed People Only and make your selection between Everybody, Allowed People Only, Favorites, or Contacts Only.
  13. Below that, you can toggle if you wish to Allow Repeated Calls, which means that you won't be notified the first time someone calls, but if they call back again within three minutes, their second call won't be silenced. I recommend toggling this on so that someone can reach you in case of an emergency. 

    I recommend toggling this on so that someone can reach you in case of an emergency. 
  14. Next, tap Apps in the Focus customization menu.

    Next, tap Apps in the Focus customization menu.
  15. Depending on what’s easier, you can either silence notifications from certain contacts or allow them by tapping either Silence Notifications From or Allow Notifications From.

    Depending on what’s easier, you can either silence notifications from certain contacts or allow them by tapping either Silence Notifications From or Allow Notifications From.
  16. Next, select the apps by tapping Add Apps.

    Next, select the apps by tapping Add Apps.
  17. Tap the circle(s) next to the contacts you wish to add. You can use the Search bar and type their name to save you time.

    Tap the circle(s) next to the contacts you wish to add. You can use the Search bar and type their name to save you time.
  18. Once you have all your apps selected, tap Done.

    Once you have all your apps selected, tap Done. 
  19. You will now see the apps you selected. If you wish to remove an app, you accidentally added, tap the minus icon, and it will disappear.

    You will now see the apps you selected. If you wish to remove an app, you accidentally added, tap the minus icon, and they will disappear.
  20. At the very bottom, decide if you want to toggle Time Sensitive Notifications on or off. I recommend toggling this on in case there is an emergency, such as a hacker attempting to log into your social media or email.

    At the very bottom, device if you want to toggle Time Sensitive Notifications on or off.
  21. Any changes you make will be saved automatically; just tap Back to return to the Focus customization menu.

    Any changes you make will be saved automatically; just tap Back to return to the Focus customization menu.

Pro Tip: If you prefer to silence notifications from certain contacts rather than selecting who to allow, keep in mind that this will only work across your devices that are updated to the latest software. For example, if your Mac is running an older macOS, you may still receive notifications from your silenced list even if your Focus modes are synced across devices.

I really like that we now have the option to pick which contacts can't notify you instead of only being able to select those who can. For example, if the only person who contacts you during work hours outside of colleagues is your spouse, and you want to set up a Work Focus, you may want to select Silence Notifications From, then select your spouse in the next step.

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Author Details

Olena Kagui's picture

Author Details

Olena Kagui

Olena Kagui is a Feature Writer at iPhone Life who lives in Hawaii. With a BA in International Relations from Anglo American University, Olena traveled the world. She has lived in Ukraine, the Czech Republic, China, and the USA. Olena won an excellence award for a controversial article, got a grant to blog from a war-zone, and published a short fictional story. She hopes to publish a full-length novel and continue writing up a storm on her blog The Travel Bug Bite! When she’s not typing or flying, she is loving on animals, crafting bizarre creations, and devouring all-you-can-eat sushi.