Windows 10 can help you focus whilst working from home

Tech Blog
April 3, 2020
A Man looking at a computer screen

One of the biggest challenges facing home workers, whether they're seasoned veterans or completely new to remote working, is staying focused.

Working in the comfort of your own home comes with many benefits as well as numerous environmental challenges. You have to work harder than ever to remain focused, whilst being faced with all sorts of new distractions, such as other members of your household distracting you or being tempted to turn on the TV or pick up your mobile phone.  

These environmental factors are the other side of the coin when it comes to business in lockdown. Robust Managed IT Support Services can help get the technology in front of you and your team but the mindset to motivate yourself to make the most effective use of your time may be a different challange entirely.

Windows 10 has a very overlooked and discreet feature called 'Focus Assist', that once activated, allows you to banish notifications, alerts and more from pestering you when you need to stay on track - use it effectively and it becomes your secret weapon against distractions.

Below are some tips on how best to use Focus Assist:

(The following information was taken from

1. Turn on Focus Assist:

First things first, you need to activate Focus Assist. Do this by clicking the Action centre icon (it looks like a speach bubble) in the bottom-right corner of your screen.

When this opens, click the Focus Assist Button in the bottom-left corner. This will move through your options, allowing you to turn Focus Assist on for priority apps, alarms etc. More detail on this shortly.

Activating Focus Assist this way uses Windows 10's default settings, but you will want to customise these to best suit your needs and have some more control.

2. Allow your alarms through:

Now, to customise the settings from default settings, type "Focus Assist settings" into the Windows 10 search box and click the first result. You will then see the at the top of the resulting Settings pane, the three main options for Focus Assist: "Off", "Priority only", and "Alarms only".

Selecting "Alarms only" will mute everything except alarms. This is a great tool for minimising the distractions that come with constant notifications, but still allows for some alarms to still happen for those important tasks to help you keep on track.

3. Only permit priority apps:

However, the "Alarms only" option might be too much for you, as there are times when you want to allow certain apps to notify you of events, but block others - e.g. you won't want to miss an important email, but you might want to block social media apps.

For more control, you can select "Priority only" instead of "Alarms only", which allows you to prioritise your apps and people that can notify or contact you, but will block everything else. To choose exactly what gets through, click "Customise your priority list".

4. Prioritise key people:

It's pretty important to make sure you add important colleagues to your priority list to ensure their messages reach you and aren't blocked. After you have clicked "Customise your priority list", you can click "Add contacts" situated under the People heading.

Here, you can scroll through the resultant list or search for contacts and once you've found one you want to add, click their name and they'll be added to a running tally. Finally, click the check mark to add your selected contacts to your priority list.

To remove a contact from your priority list, click their name in the priority list settings pane, then click Remove.

5. Choose priority apps:

Exactly like contacts, you have the control to choose certain apps that will be allowed to notify you. In the Apps section, choose an app from the list, or click "Add an app" if you don't see the one you want.

It's important to note that this function is motlsy limited to apps that are available on the Microsoft Store... any desktop apps that have been downloading from other sources will not appear in this list.

Also, if you have an app that gets a bit too 'notification-happy' that isn't in the priority list, you may have to open the settings for the app directly and alter it's notification settings separately.

6. Set automatic rules:

Instead of having to mess with your Focus Assist settings every time you want to make a change, why not set a few automatic rules that will take care of things for you. This will save you time and let you get on with more important jobs.

There are four different types of automatic rules:

  • "During these times"
  • "When I'm duplicating my display"
  • "When I'm playing a game"
  • "When I'm using an app in full-screen mode"

Each of these rules have one or two default settings, which if you're happy with these, then simply click the slider next to the corresponding setting to enable it, and you're done.

7. Customising your automatic rules:

However, if you want more control over the rules you set, read on...

Start by clicking on an automatic rule (this also describes what each setting does in more detail), once enabled, more options will appear e.g. you can choose when Focus Assist will automatically start and finish, on what days it occurs, and whether it allows through your priority list or alarms. This is a great way to block any annoying distractions during the work day.

Each individual rule also has an option to display a notification in the action center when Focus Assist has been automatically activated.

8. Catching up on what you missed:

After a long day at work, with all sorts of notifications and messages being blocked, you'll want to catch up on what you've missed. If Focus Assist has hidden notifications, the Action Center icon will be filled in; otherwise, it will be empty. You can click the icon to see a summary of the notifications that were blocked while Focus Assist was on, grouped by app.

Simply click a message to view it in its parent app. You can even have more control when viewing your blocked notifications and messages in the Action Center by hiding individual notifications or groups, adjusting the app's notification settings, or turning off alerts for that app. Simply click an app name and you can add it to your priority list (provided it's a Microsoft Store app). In some cases, such as emails, you can flag, archive or dismiss alerts from within the action center.

With Windows 10 Focus Assist, you can now work from home with reduced distractions and increased focus.

See Focus Assist in action with Microsoft's quick guide to getting started with this new feature.

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