How To: Use Quiet Hours and Inner Circle on Windows Phone

Back in the old days, whenever you didn’t want to be disturbed, turning off your phone was the only viable solution. It’s certainly effective, but it also makes one completely unreachable – a steep price to pay for a bit of relaxation these days. Cortana arrived on Windows Phone with a fully customizable ‘do not disturb’ feature, called Quiet Hours, letting you set up every little detail on when, how and who can reach you while it’s turned on.

Because Quiet Hours was created as a superior alternative to turning your phone off whenever you prefer to be left alone. It lets you create a list of select contacts that can get through to you no matter what, called the Inner Circle.

Perhaps you have a bunch of friends that are calling you or sending texts all the time, to share every little insignificant thing and you feel like taking a break from that. At the same time you wouldn’t want your girlfriend, mom and boss to not be able to reach you. This is just a small example of what Quiet Hours and Inner Circle can help you with, so let’s dive into their settings to see what else they’re offering.

How to set up Inner Circle

Before you actually turn Quiet Hours on, it’s important you choose those contacts that can call or text you no matter what.

1. Launch Cortana by long pressing the Search button or from the apps list.

Cortana - Windows Phone

2. Tap on the hamburger icon located in the top right of the screen to open Cortana’s Notebook.

Cortana's Notebook

3. Now tap on the ‘inner circle’ option to enter its settings menu.

Cortana - Inner Circle

4. Use the ‘+’ button to add contacts to your Inner Circle or from the ‘suggestions’ section, created automatically by Cortana based on your interaction with your contacts. You’ll also be able to assign nicknames to your contacts, which you can then use in voice commands.

How to set up rules for Quiet Hours

There’s one more thing you have to do before you enable Quiet Hours on your phone and that’s configuring breakthrough rules and the behavior of this function based on certain events.

1. Open Cortana’s Notebook like you did when you configured your Inner Circle.

2. Tap on the ‘quiet hours’ option.

Cortana - Quiet Hours settings

3. The first option is to turn the feature on/off, but don’t do that yet. The next option is ‘automatic rules’ – this one will allow Cortana to automatically enable Quiet Hours at times specified by you. If you prefer to always enable Quiet Hours manually, simply leave this feature disabled.

Otherwise, you can define on which days and time periods you want Quiet Hours enabled. Calendar integration is also present. If you enable this feature, Quiet Hours will be active during all calendar events that you marked Busy.

4. In the ‘Breakthrough rules’ section you can decide who will be able to call or text you during Quiet Hours. You can let contacts that are not in your Inner Circle break through if they call twice in 3 minutes (that sure looks like something urgent). There may be some time when you don’t want to be disturbed by absolutely anyone, including your Inner Circle, so you can simply disable the related option and you’ll be unreachable.

Cortana - Quiet Hours breakthrough rules

For text messaging breakthrough rules you can allow your Inner Circle to always breakthrough or not be able to send you texts at all but there’s also the option ‘Ask inner circle: Break through?’.

I find this one particularly useful for when you want to be disturbed only for a really good reason. With this enabled, Inner Circle contacts that send you a text during Quiet Hours will receive an automated reply from your phone telling them you’re busy with the option to send another message that begins with the text ‘Knock knock’ if there’s an emergency so you can receive it.

Last, but not least you also get the option to automatically send a text to any contact that’s trying to reach you but isn’t allowed to. The text will let them know you’re busy and unable to respond immediately. This can come in handy but in my opinion it has a small flaw. The message isn’t customizable – at least not yet, so you’ll have to settle for the default text if you want to use the feature.

How to turn Quiet Hours on/off

This may seem like a no-brainer, since you have the ‘automatic rules’ feature and the on/off switch is the first option in Cortana’s Quiet Hours settings. These are basically the two options that let you enable Quiet Hours manually and automatically.

Quiet Hours in Action Center

Nevertheless, if you’ll be using Quiet Hours a lot you may also want to have a shortcut to its settings on hand, so you can turn it on/off faster. You can do that by adding Quiet Hours as a quick action to your phone’s Action Center. You can easily do that by going to your phone’s Settings -> ‘notifications + actions’, choose an icon slot and select ‘quiet hours’ from the actions list.

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