Windows 11 will introduce ‘focus sessions’ to help with remote work distractions

This tool pairs tasks on a to-do list with Spotify playlists to allow workers to concentrate while working from home or in the office

Windows 11 will include a feature that aims to increase productivity and cut down on distractions by allowing users to start a ‘focus session’.

These focus sessions let users choose a task from a pre-written to-do list, set a timer, and pair this activity with a Spotify playlist. Users can also set the number of breaks they wish to take, and review daily progress.

This tool, set to be accessible through the Clock application in Windows 11, has been described by Microsoft’s chief product officer, Panos Panay, as a “game-changer”. It’s been designed to boost productivity for users either working from home, or in the office.

Windows 10 already enjoyed an integration with Spotify through the Windows Xbox Game Bar. Integration with the Clock app would simply apply this integration to a productivity context.

Focus sessions build on the ‘focus assist’ feature in Windows 10, which allows users to avoid notifications while the feature is activated. Windows 11 takes this a step further by giving ‘focus sessions’ a dedicated space within an app, where users can track their progress and access external integrations.

It’s not clear, however, whether focus sessions would lock users into a separate desktop mode in which they can only access a list of pre-approved apps and services, or whether the only thing stopping users from distracting themselves is willpower.

For instance, many Android smartphones feature a similar focus mode that locks users into an app with only a timer and access to a soundscape or playlist. This eliminates distractions by restricting access to other apps unless users consciously exit this mode and abandon the exercise entirely. A variation of this will come to iPhones with iOS 15.

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It’s difficult to replicate this experience on Windows, given many of the services users need to be productive, especially web browsers, can also distract them. Focus sessions may nevertheless help users get things done by adding a sense of urgency to tasks, and allowing them access playlists from within the same window.

A preview of Windows 11 can be accessed through the Windows Insider programme, with the full version of the operating system set to be released as a free update in 2022.

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