Dive Into “Monk Mode” to Tackle a Top Priority
As the year draws to a close, it’s natural to reflect on key accomplishments — and things left undone. Launching a “Monk Mode” project can provide the concentrated time and attention you need to tie up loose ends.
Born out of the all-in startup culture, a Monk Mode project is one part challenge and an equal part detox. You commit to focus solely on a specific project for a defined period while isolating yourself from distractions. From one day to a long weekend, week or even a month, Monk Mode combines deep work with freedom from normal demands and temptations.
Sure, you could include your unmet goal on a long list of New Year’s resolutions or tag it as a priority for 2023, but starting the year with a key project already completed could be a powerful catalyst for even greater progress, making now the perfect time to do something big.
Of course, what’s possible for you will depend on personal, family and work obligations, but this liminal time between the close of one year and the start of the next provides an especially rich opening for change.
Disengage to engage more fully
There is no one person or organization credited with developing the Monk Mode concept, but it’s closely associated with entrepreneurial culture. “Whether you’re looking to go deeper into a new hobby, start a new healthy behavior, or finally finish a big work project, Monk Mode can help you get it done,” writes Inc. Com contributor Jessica Stillman.
Unlike New Year’s Resolutions that often stretch far into the future (and most often fade by February), a Monk Mode project has a well-defined beginning and end and requires you to focus on one thing and one thing only.
Ready to go
Self-described enthusiasts agree about many of the critical components of a Monk Mode project. Some compare it to intense experiences such as military basic training, professional sports camps or intense study for a terminal exam. Here’s how to get started.
- Choose a goal. The point of Monk Mode is to accomplish something or make major progress toward it. Pick something discrete and attainable. If you have a weekend, you might not set a goal of writing a novel, becoming a professional guitarist or starting a business. But you could write several chapters, practice a difficult piece of music or develop a business plan for a new venture.
- Pick a time. Schedule your Monk Mode project when you can get away from your business or job, the kids, your dog and other responsibilities. Those obligations may also help determine whether you set aside a 24-hour period, long weekend, or a week. It’s probably best to start small and see if the approach appeals.
Best-selling author of Deep Work, Cal Newport, Ph.D., advocates the Monk Mode Morning as another alternative. “Between when you wake up and noon: no meetings, no calls, no texts, no email, no Slack, no Internet. You instead work deeply on something (or some things) that matter,” he explains on his blog.
- Omit bad habits. Cut yourself off from distractions and unhealthy temptations. This includes social media, video games, dating apps, your phone, the news, junk food, alcohol, smoking and drugs.
- Make the rules. Most Monk Mode devotees advocate a highly concentrated approach, basically whatever you can handle in terms of time and intensity. But don’t set parameters that are so stringent that you’re failing before you’ve begun. If you won’t be able to sleep unless you check in with your spouse and kids before bed, give yourself that leeway. And of course, make sure people have a way to reach you (and vice versa) in case of an emergency. You don’t have to be alone in a deserted forest, you just need to be away from your normal routine, demands and distractions.
- Define your project in writing. You’re making an agreement with yourself so capture your intended project, expected outcomes and your rules in writing to hold yourself accountable.
- Go all in. Give this project your full attention. That’s the point. Newport’s research and others shows multitasking is a lie so take this opportunity to do one thing at a time. That said, you will need breaks. If your project involves primarily sedentary work, add time for exercise. If you’re tackling something physical, build in rest, sleep and self-care.
We get so little uninterrupted time to think and work in our 24/7 world of connection. The chance to take time-out from your real life and mimic the singular devotion of a monk may be just what you need to create the results you most desire.