If you are easily distracted when trying to work on your PC, silence notifications and other interruptions with Windows 11 focus sessions. Create pomodoro-like timers to work and take breaks.
When you need to get work done and are up against a deadline, you have to focus, avoid all distractions and concentrate on the task at hand. For those occasions when you need to boost productivity, Windows 11 has focus modes that enable ‘do not disturb’ mode and hide distractions. It even has work and break sessions using timers like pomodoro apps.
Although this is a useful Windows 11 feature, I think it has been implemented in a confusing way. For example, it is available in three different places and has different features in some of them, and it uses non-standard work and break sessions. Well, non-standard when compared to traditional pomodoro.
Despite the slightly confusing interface, it is useful to use Windows 11 focus modes when you need to get work done, so let’s look at the features.
Focus in notifications
Click the clock on the right-hand side of the taskbar and the notifications panel is displayed. Down at the bottom of the screen is 30 mins and a Focus start button.
The plus and minus buttons enable you to choose a longer or shorter focus session and you might want to set it to the standard pomodoro work time of 25 minutes.
Click the minus button to reduce the focus session time in 5 minutes steps or click the plus to add 15-minute blocks. Click the play button to start the session and a countdown clock window appears on the desktop so you can see how much longer you have to work. Click the stop button in the window to end the focus session.
Focus in Settings
An alternative way to access focus sessions is through the Settings app. Press Windows+I to open Settings and go to System > Focus. Expand the Focus section with the v button and several options are available. You can show the time, hide badges and flashing on taskbar apps. Badges and flashing indicate notifications and you want to avoid them in a focus session.
There is also an option to turn on do not disturb and this quietens notifications. Do not disturb mode can be configured by going to System > Notifications. If you need to make changes to the focus settings, a focus session can be started from within the Settings app after changing them.
Focus in Clock
Open the Windows Clock app from the Start menu and select Focus sessions in the sidebar. You will discover yet another way to start focus sessions. It is mostly the same, but there are some unique features too, which I find make focus sessions a bit confusing.
First, make sure you are signed into the Clock app. It sounds strange, but it is needed for some features. Click Sign In in the bottom left corner of the Clock app window.
Click the taskbar clock and you can reduce focus sessions in 5-minute blocks. The same as in Settings. In the Clock app though, you can only reduce the focus session in 15-minute blocks. There is only one option for a shorter sessions than the 30-minutes default and that is 15 minutes. Elsewhere you can select 25, 20, 15, 10 and 5. I am nit sure such short focus sessions are useful, but it is odd having different options depending on where you access focus.
A standard pomodoro session is 25 minutes followed by a 5-minute break. Clock defaults to 30 minutes working with no break. However, if you increase the focus time to 45 minutes, you do get a break. You also have the option to skip breaks.
The Clock app enables you to track focus sessions and you can see the number of minutes completed today and how many you did yesterday. Click the pencil icon in the top right corner and you can set a daily goal of the number of hours you want to work each day. Like pomodoro, it tracks streaks, which is the number of days you completed your goal.
A couple of widgets extend focus modes and the most unusual is Spotify. If you have the app installed, you can use it to enhance your focus sessions with music and podcasts. Some people like to listen to music while they work and while you could start a music player, select some music and start it playing yourself, having Spotify on the focus mode screen in the Clock app makes it easier.
The other widget is for Microsoft To Do. This is a great idea and you can select a task in the To Do widget to work on in your focus sessions.
Customise focus modes in the clock app by clicking the three dots just above the Get ready to focus title. Expand each section and in Focus periods you can choose the default focus and break periods. You can also choose the end of session and break sounds. Spotify and To Do apps can be enabled or disabled as you prefer.
Search the Microsoft Store for ‘pomodoro’ and you will find many apps for creating timed work sessions and breaks. However, Windows Clock provides a basic pomodoro timer. It does not have as many features as some apps, but it integrates with ‘do not disturb’ to silence distracting notifications while in a work session.
It is available in the taskbar, Settings and the Clock app. Focus settings seem to be partially in one location (Settings) and partially in another (Clock), which is a bit confusing. For example, you cannot set the break length in Settings, but you can in Clock. You can enable ‘do not disturb’ in Settings, but not Clock. The Spotify and To Do widgets are useful extras, and you can create and track goals.
Overall, this is a useful addition for Windows 11. Use it to boost productivity by focusing on your work.