Limit distractions, get into flow, and finally get stuff done… you'd have to be a monk!
You don't need us to tell you that the modern world is complete, disconcerting chaos.
As you read these words - on your smartphone or laptop - there are countless other distractions vying for your attention. Perhaps the TV is blaring out the latest episode of Love is Blind. Maybe your partner is scrolling through TikTok, trying to show you a viral video of a cat dressed as a human. (“Look at him… he's a little businessman!”) At the top of the screen you're looking at, notifications are popping up from that blasted group chat.
Since we live in a land of loud, busy screens, it can be hard to “switch off” and get stuff done. So, when you have a deadline looming, it's all too easy to get distracted by other, less important (but often more fun) things. Sound familiar? If you're struggling when it comes to productivity, you're not alone. In fact, a recent survey found that people want to be productive so desperately that they prioritise it over their own happiness.
While we're by no means advocating making yourself miserable to meet deadlines, there has to be a middle ground. That's where monk mode comes into play. Yes, it's the productivity hack that you didn't know that you needed. In the following post, we'll take a look at what monk mode is, the rules you have to follow, and how you can get started.
What does monk mode mean?
You don't have to be an anthropologist to know that monks lead solitary lives. Free from the chains of technological distractions, these devoted individuals set their sights on one task at a time and don't stop until they are satisfied. So, what if you did the same thing?
Monk mode is exactly that - focusing on the most important task on your “to do” list while limiting or ignoring all other distractions. By minimising the amount of distractions around you, the theory goes, you can truly get into “flow” and do high-quality work. So, if you've been having trouble keeping on track, it may be worth giving this a whirl. At the very least, it will give you a chance to have some peace and quiet as you're working.
Wondering where this latest trend came from? Ironically, monk mode recently went viral on the likes of TikTok. Yes, the notion of limiting distractions became popular on the most attention-demanding social media app known to man. Since then, content creators have been sharing their journeys along with hacks, strategies, and approaches you can use.
Who invented monk mode?
Before we take a deep-dive into monk mode, you may be wondering where the idea came from. Shockingly, TikTok users were not the first group of people to start shouting about, and subsequently using, this productivity hack. The trend has been popular among CEOs and professionals, particularly those in the tech industry, since back in the early 2000s.
However, the jury is still out when it comes to who invented the approach. While it has been attributed to countless different people - including Writer David Cain and Software Engineer Ben Orenstein - it's unclear which borderline genius coined the term. However, the approach has been adopted by many successful professionals and has rave reviews.
Benefits of monk mode
Thinking of going full monk mode? Before you get started with this productivity approach, you might be wondering what the benefits are. It's no surprise that detaching from the demands of the modern world will help you to get more things done. But let's break things down a tad further. Here are some of the benefits of monk mode that you can expect to reap.
Focusing on one thing at a time can be… tough. When you settle down to work, there are countless distractions waiting for you. Simple interruptions, such as having to answer an incoming email quickly, can set you back more than you imagined. When you limit these distractions and just focus on one central task, you're more likely to excel at doing it.
Do you know where the working day goes? If you feel as though there aren't enough hours available, using monk mode could be the way to go. One of the best things about this particular approach is that you do it for a specific period of time. Let's say two hours. During that period, you only focus on your chosen task. You may be surprised by how much you can get done in a seemingly short period, when there's nothing else to do.
When tasks are mounting up in front of you, you may not know which to tackle first. There's a temptation to do a little of each task and switch between them. However, when you decide to try monk mode, you have to pick one, solitary task to focus on. That means that you can't multitask. Focusing on one thing makes all the difference here.
Of course, the main benefit of monk mode is higher levels of productivity. If you feel as though you've hit a slump when it comes to getting things done, you may find that going into monk mode switches things up. As we'll cover now, there are different ways that you can approach the monk mode challenge. However, they all aim to boost your productivity.
The core monk mode rules: creating a plan
If you're ready to give monk mode a go, it's time to create a plan that works for you. Keep in mind that people define this approach in different ways. For some, it's a mixture of meditation followed by a period of pure productivity. For others, it's simply about cutting out any distractions and getting on with work. For the purposes of this post, we're going to focus on the latter. Here are the core rules to follow when creating a monk mode plan.
Decide on a time period
First up, you need to decide how long you want to go into monk mode for. As a general rule, it pays to start small and work your way up to longer time periods. That's especially true if you find it tricky to focus for a long period of time. For example, you may decide to kick things off with an hour. That's a short amount of time, but enough to get you started.
As you get more confident in using monk mode, you can increase this period. You may want to work your way up to around four hours at a time, or even a whole day. However, if you jump straight in and try this, you're likely to fail. Take things at your own pace.
Pick a task or activity to do
Next, decide what task you want to do. That's often easier said than done, especially if there's a load on your plate. However, when you go into monk mode, you can only focus on one thing at a time. Prioritise your biggest and most-daunting task. Take a look at your “to do” list and figure out which of the activities will take the most time and energy.
Limit any distractions
Distractions are everywhere - now it's time to tune them out. First up, your smartphone. Turn it to silent or switch it off. If either of those approaches sound too extreme, simply turn the notifications off. You don't want anyone messaging or calling you while you work.
It doesn't end there. You also need to turn off the distractions on your computer. That may mean closing your email, turning off WhatsApp, and even logging out of Slack. The whole caboodle. Switch the view on your computer to full-screen mode. That way, whatever app or program you're using will be the only thing that you can see on the screen.
You should also think about background distractions. That means no radio, podcasts, or music should be playing, however quietly, while you work. Find a room in which you can be completely shut off from the rest of the world… so you can focus on this one task.
Switch off from socialising
Working in an office? Idle chit-chat can eat into your time and productivity more than you realise. So, if you're planning on going into monk mode, let the people around you know. You don't need any interruptions. (Hint: You don't have to call it monk mode if you don't want to. Simply let them know that you're having a quiet period of concentration!) Taking a break from the constant socialising aspect of work can help you to better engage with tasks.
Relax and recharge
When your time is up, you need to relax and recharge. Make no mistake, trying to completely focus on a task can be mentally draining. The first time you go full monk mode, you might find that you feel exhausted afterwards. That's entirely normal. Schedule a quick break after you've finished. That way, you won't risk burning out from it.
Repeat (when needed!)
Once you're comfortable using monk mode, you can return to it whenever you need. While you may not want to pass your entire working day this way, the approach can be useful when you're trying to meet that tough deadline. Use it as a way to boost your productivity.
Strategies for going full monk mode
Now that you know the basics of how to go monk mode, let's talk about some of the strategies you can use. We won't beat around the bush - using this approach is hard when you're new to it. Chances are, you're used to being “plugged in” to everything that's going on around you. Here are some strategies you can try to stay on track:
Mark it in your calendar
Monk mode is a commitment. If you want to make sure that you stick to it, mark it in your calendar. Block out periods of time when you want to completely focus on one task. You can share this on a group calendar so that your coworkers know that you're unavailable.
Take things slowly
Rushing into monk mode is a mistake. As we've already mentioned, you don't want to go straight in and try to do this for hours on end. If you try to do too much at once, you may find it overwhelming. Start small - with a short time period - and work your way up.
Expect yourself to slip up
Spoiler: You're not actually a monk. When you first try this approach for yourself, you may mess up. Remember to go easy on yourself should that happen. If you find that it's hard to stick to a distraction-free period, take a quick break, reset, and try again. It will take you a while to get used to this style of working and there's no sense in being hard on yourself.
Looking for a quick way to get things done? Monk mode may help you to recognise just how much you can accomplish when you cut other things out. In this post, we've covered everything that you need to know to give it a go. You can tailor this approach to suit your work style. Why not try it for yourself and see whether it works for you?
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