How to Use ‘Do Not Disturb’ on Your Phone (While Still Letting Important Calls Through)

My family likes to text each other. A lot. So do my co-workers. Group texts and Slack messages constantly buzz day in and day out, and occasionally, texts and calls will come in while some of us are sleeping or busy — which leads to more texts, crying foul at those who have the nerve to wake us up.

Instead of fighting a losing battle against night texters and bosses who won’t stop messaging you after hours, you can use some of your phone’s built-in settings to silence those notifications, without worrying about missing the really important ones. Here’s how to configure Do Not Disturb mode to let calls through from certain people, at certain times, or only in case of emergency.

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The Do Not Disturb settings screen on Apple’s iPhone enables you to set automatic quiet hours and allow calls from specific contacts.CreditWhitson Gordon

iPhone users have a plethora of options for Do Not Disturb mode, ensuring that only the important stuff gets through. Head to Settings > Do Not Disturb to customize it. In particular, you’ll probably want to adjust the following options:

  • Scheduled: Turn this on, and set it to whenever you go to bed and wake up. Notifications will still appear on the lock screen; they just won’t make noise. If you’d prefer to hide them from the lock screen as well, turn the Bedtime switch on — that way, they’ll only appear when you drag down the Notification Center, rather than tempting you to answer emails at 10 p.m.

  • Allow Calls From: By default, your iPhone will silence all calls when Do Not Disturb is on. With this setting, though, you can allow calls from your Favorite contacts, like your spouse or parents. You’ll definitely want to turn on Repeated Calls, too, which will allow calls through if it’s an emergency and the same person calls twice within three minutes.

Those are the crucial ones, though there are a few other handy settings in this menu, like auto-replying to text messages while you’re driving. Feel free to peruse the other settings while you’re here.

If you enabled the Allow Calls From setting, you’ll need to add contacts to your Favorites group. Open the iPhone’s Contacts app, tap on the person in question, and scroll down to Add to Favorites. Once you have the right people on your Favorites list and the above settings enabled, they’ll be able to call you even when Do Not Disturb is on.

Unfortunately, iOS doesn’t have an option for allowing text messages from certain contacts, but in most cases, people will call you if it’s urgent. You can, however, assign certain vibration patterns to your most important contacts so you don’t even need to look at your phone to know who’s texting. Just tap the Edit button, and under Text Tone, choose Vibration and assign something recognizable. This isn’t specific to Do Not Disturb, but it’s a handy feature that serves a similar purpose: helping you know when certain people are texting so you can judge when something is important and when it can probably wait.

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The Do Not Disturb settings in Google’s Android mobile operating system let you customize vibrations for your contacts and allow repeat calls to come through even when your phone is set to silent.CreditWhitson Gordon

If your phone runs Google’s Android operating system, the Do Not Disturb settings may be laid out a bit differently depending on which phone you use. But here’s the gist of how they work, which should point you in the right direction.

First, open the Settings app and head to Sound > Do Not Disturb. From here, you can customize a few aspects of the feature, including:

  • Sound, vibration, and visuals: You probably want audible notifications turned off when Do Not Disturb is turned on, but you can allow your phone to continue lighting up when notifications come through — though I imagine most people would prefer to have this off.

  • Exceptions: This is the really useful part. Here, you can choose to allow calls or messages (or both) from your “starred” contacts, even when Do Not Disturb is on. This allows you to block most notifications but allow those from your spouse, mother or other important people. You can also allow “repeat callers” so that if someone calls you twice within 15 minutes — as would be common in emergency situations — it bypasses Do Not Disturb.

  • Schedule: Finally, this is where you can schedule Do Not Disturb to automatically turn on and off at specific times, like when you go to bed. You’ll absolutely want to enable this.

I highly recommend turning on an exception for repeat calls and starred contacts, letting you block most notifications in Do Not Disturb mode but allowing the ones you know won’t be sent unless they’re urgent or important. If you do that, make sure to star the right contacts in Android’s Contacts app — just tap on a contact to bring up their info, and tap the star in the upper right corner to mark them as important.

With these settings in place, you can feel much better about using Do Not Disturb liberally — not just at night, but during meetings, date night and whenever else you don’t want to be bothered.