How to Automate Your iPhone Based on Time, Activity, or Location

Man holding and using iPhone 14

Your iPhone can become more efficient with a few simple automations that show relevant information and hide distractions based on what you’re doing. Automating your iPhone can help you be more productive at work, sleep better at night, or display useful reminders at the best possible time.

Set up the focus modes first

Many automations depend on the Focus modes that Apple added to iOS 15 in 2021. Apple further expanded these Focus modes in the iOS 16 update. The first thing you should do is spend some time setting up the focus modes that are relevant to you.

TIED TOGETHER: What’s new in iOS 16 for iPhone

Set up Apple's predefined focus modes

Go to Settings > Focus to get started. If you previously automated Do Not Disturb mode, a focus mode is already enabled.

You can add more by using the plus “+” icon in the top-right corner of the screen or by tapping the “Set up” button that appears next to the default options like Work and Sleep.

Not only can you choose from Apple’s suggestions, but you can also select Custom to set up an entirely new focus mode. Give it a name, choose an icon, and click Next followed by the Adjust Focus button to get started.

Create your own custom focus mode

By default, Focus modes mute notifications that are not time-sensitive. You can also choose the contacts and apps you want to allow or mute notifications from.

For example, you can select important contacts so you don’t miss a notification from family and friends while hiding distractions like Facebook requests or mobile game notifications.

You can use the Options button to show muted notifications on your lock screen, which means they are delivered silently (only appear when you check your device, but don’t buzz or show a popup).

You can also dim the lock screen, ideal for “sleep” focus mode or anytime you want a darker appearance.

Link focus modes to lock screens and more

You now have the ability to bind your lock screen, home screen, and Apple Watch face to a focus mode. You can find these options under Settings > Focus Menu (under a specific focus mode’s settings).

Click “Choose” and then choose from your available options.

Customize focus lock screen, home screen and clock face

For lock screens, you can create new ones by long pressing your lock screen and tapping the plus “+” button. Here you can add widgets to your lock screen or choose a simple background-only theme. You can display widgets relevant to your current activity, such as weather information or calendar events.

You can do the same for your home screen. Take some time to set up specific pages of apps on your home screen, then choose one you want to see when your chosen focus mode is on.

In some Focus modes (like Work), you can “Create a new page,” which suggests apps and widgets based on activity, although this only works for Apple’s predefined options.

Finally, choose an Apple Watch watch face. This uses your Apple Watch gallery. So if you want to see specific things, make sure you’ve created the watch face first.

Plan your focus modes

To make the focus modes really useful, they should be fully automated. You can turn them on and off manually, but it’s much better if you set them up to turn on and off based on relevant criteria.

Enable Smart Activation for a focus mode

You have the option to turn on smart wake-up under Auto Turn On in the Settings > Focus menu (under a specific focus mode’s settings).

Siri learns about your habits from what you do, giving Siri a chance to put what he knows to good use. Your iPhone uses the location, time of day, and type of app you’re using to make a call, which determines which focus mode to activate.

Schedule focus modes manually

If you don’t trust Siri to get it right, or you’ve had a bad experience with Assistant’s predictions, you can tap the Add Schedule button to set your criteria.

For example, you can set your focus mode to activate during working hours or late at night when you’re trying to rest. You can also set the focus mode to activate as soon as you reach certain locations, e.g. B. your home or the gym.

Sync focus modes between devices

You can use the same focus modes between devices including iPad and Mac. All you have to do is turn on the “Share Across Devices” switch under Settings > Focus on your iPhone to see the same focus modes appear on your other devices.

Share Focus settings between Apple devices

Use focus filters to block out distractions

Finally, Focus Filters take the entire Focus system to the next level. These allow you to filter out information that is not relevant to the current focus mode. This is arguably most useful when you need to focus, e.g. B. when your work or study focus modes are activated.

In a focus mode’s settings, under Settings > Focus, click the Add Filter button to see your different options. For example, you can use the message filter to only show conversations from specific contacts.

Use focus filters for even more control

You can also find third-party apps here that offer similar options. Finally, there are a few more system settings, like the option to use dark mode (ideal for nighttime focus modes) and power saving mode.

Set reminders based on location and more

Focus modes aren’t the be-all and end-all of iPhone automation. The Reminders app, for example, also has useful functions. One of those features is the ability to get reminders based on your location.

To do this, tap on a reminder to edit it. Then tap the “i” button to see more options. You can then toggle “Location” and choose a location to display the reminder on your iPhone lock screen. This works great for getting reminders of the items on your shopping list as soon as you head into the store or for silencing text messages while driving.

Display specific reminder items in designated locations

You can also tick “When sending messages” to get the reminder when you message a specific contact. This comes in handy when you want to remind someone of something without disturbing them while you’re already chatting.

Use shortcuts to set up more complex automations

There’s a whole world of automations to explore in the Shortcuts app. Shortcuts let you set up automations that help you save battery, curb distractions, or trigger actions when you launch specific apps.

Better still, you can now hide that pesky Running Your Automation notification too.

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