Writing Without Distractions: The iOS Trick3 min read

I’ve been moving from a desktop-centric writing approach to a mobile workflow that liberates me. Along the way, I’m finding some tips and tricks that are too good to share. Let’s start out with one of the most important ones: leave me the hell alone when I’m writing!

You feel pretty proud of yourself. You’ve got your iPad, or even an iPhone on a stand. You’ve got a wireless keyboard. You’ve got a perfect little nook in the coffee shop where the WiFi is great, the light coming in from the window is beautiful but not glaring. The caffeine is kicking in and you’re ready to write.

The first sentence is written. Facebook Messenger alerts you to your parents sending amusing Florida Man news stories. Relax; being retired affords them a lot of time to think about their children. You swipe that notification up and go back to writing. Instagram tells you that somebody liked the photo you posted five minutes ago of the swan painted onto the surface of your cappuccino by the barista. And again. And again. Oh, shit, you found a good hashtag and your coffee photo is going mildly viral. How will you ever get any writing done?

Swipe up, tap the little crescent moon icon. That’s Do-Not-Disturb, right? Well, sort of. The notifications continue. What’s the deal?

By default, your DND setting only keeps the iOS device from notifying you while the device is locked. It’ll also block incoming calls. But while the device is unlocked, like when you’re trying to write your next masterpiece, the notifications come rolling in.

It took me about thirty seconds to find a useful toggle to shut that off. I’ll save you some pain and share it with you. This will come in especially handy for those of you who write a lot, or maybe you’re planning on diving into the next NaNoWriMo. Here’s how you do it:

  • Go to the Settings app.
  • Tap “Do Not Disturb” on the left. This will bring up a new panel of settings on the right side of the screen.
  • See where there is a heading that says SILENCE? Right under that there are two options. The default is “When iPad is locked“. That’s why you keep getting notifications even when you’re in Do Not Disturb mode. Tap the other option, the one that says “Always“.
  • I also make sure to set “Allow calls from” to “No One” and turn off the toggle for “Repeated calls” (which is on by default).

Your notifications are still being captured in the Notifications Center. They just aren’t popping up on your screen. I’m using this now and have enjoyed complete focus while writing this entry. But if you touch the top of the screen and pull down the Notifications Center, you’ll see everything that you’ve been missing.

You can toggle this off and on now through the Command Center (swipe up from the bottom of the screen) and turn the crescent moon symbol on or off. That’s your Do Not Disturb setting.

Happy writing!