Life is full of distractions. People, possessions, expectations, and more hold us back from achieving our dreams.
Have you ever felt pulled in so many different directions that focusing on your own personal development just feels impossible?
Then I have a solution for you: monk mode.
Let’s dive right into it.
- Monk mode is a lifestyle choice that helps you eliminate distractions and achieve your most important goals.
- Many people use monk mode to focus on ONE specific goal in their lives.
- There are different styles of monk mode including seasonal monk, intermittent monk and forever monk.
- Monk mode requires a lot of discipline, so you’ll probably need to engage in many helpful habits to maintain it.
What is Monk Mode?
Monk mode is a trending topic in the world of personal and professional development. But it’s anything but trendy. If anything, the concept of going into monk mode is simply a modern take on an ancient practice.
In essence, monk mode is the practice of extremely withdrawing from the noise of the world in order to focus on your own inner peace and your own goals.
Many people use this term to describe the practice of focusing on your ONE important goal.
Either way, when you go monk mode, you’ll be engaging in:
- Completely cutting out social media
- Significantly reducing your social interactions
- Scheduling time for deep work
- Cutting out other bad habits that distract you from your goals, such as drinking alcohol or watching TV.
Monk Mode Meaning
The term pays homage to the monk lifestyle. For thousands of years, monks of various philosophical and religious belief systems have withdrawn from the world so that they can hyper-focus on specific goals: achieving enlightenment, serving a higher power, eliminating vice, growing in virtue.
Some people use this modern idea of monk mode to achieve various spiritual goals. For others, monk mode simply provides them the focus to achieve the most important items on their to-do lists. You can apply the concept of monk mode regardless of their beliefs to achieve self improvement in many forms.
Many people are crediting self-development content creator Jay Shetty for introducing the monk mode concept to young adults in the modern world. He is a former monk and many of the key monk mode habits are mentioned in his book ‘Think Like A Monk’.
Here’s a great Jay Shetty video outlining some of the key lessons he learned from his time as a monk.
Does Monk Mode Work?
There haven’t been any significant studies exploring whether ‘monk mode’ works, since the term itself is relatively new.
However, the idea of focusing one goal intensely has been used in many walks of life with great success.
- Athletes visit intense training camps to improve their physical health and fitness.
- Spiritual-minded individuals embark on multi-day Vipassana retreats to improve their mental health.
- Coaches in many fields will offer an intense training course to help new clients learn a skill quickly.
- Many people who invest in an online course choose to binge on it and quickly take action on the advice.
So, there is plenty of evidence that monk mode works in various other guises. It’s essentially the practice of removing all distractions in our busy lives to speed up our progress towards our most important goals. Many people find it’s the best way to do it.
Monk Mode Styles
Here is a short summary of the different ways you can incorporate monk mode into your life.
Monk Of The Hour
This idea involves dedicating one or several hours of your day to monk mode. It’s more akin to the concept of ‘Deep Work’.
It’s a less intense style of monk mode, but it can still make a great impact on your life if you’re consistent with it.
Monk Of The Week
This involves choosing certain days of the week to go monk mode, while leaving others free to enjoy the other parts of your life.
It becomes easier to maintain your monk mode lifestyle for several weeks or a few months when you give yourself these ‘rest days’.
This variant of monk mode will have you focusing with high-intensity on your goal for several months, then taking a more relaxed approach for the rest of the year.
If you live in a cold country with freezing temperatures and barely any sunlight over the winter months, a seasonal monk mode might be appealing to you.
Just like a squirrel, you can work hard during the winter and reap the benefits during the summer.
This is similar to a seasonal monk except the time periods are less defined. An intermittent monk works his ass off until he achieves a certain goal, then takes a short retirement from work to recover and enjoy the finer things in life.
A forever monk dedicates his entire life to the achievement of his goals. He doesn’t make time for distractions or activities that take him away from his purpose. He will only rest to recharge his mind and body so he’s ready to begin working hard again.
11 Tips For How To Benefit From Monk Mode
#1 Know Why You Are Going to Enter Monk Mode
Before you decide to enter monk mode, ask yourself what your goals are. What do you hope to achieve by setting other people aside in order to work on yourself?
Here are some of the reasons people decide that now is the right time for going monk:
- Reset mental state. Every day, life demands that we remain in a constant state of movement. We flit from one meeting to the next. In-between professional or social engagements, we scroll on our phones. And when we finally have time to ourselves, we drown anxieties away in Netflix or YouTube. Monk mode allows us the opportunity to slow down, reset our mental faculties, and focus on growing our sense of self.
- Achieve a big goal. Maybe you have a really important goal that has just been impossible to make good progress on. You want to write a book, launch a business, or get yourself in peak physical condition, but the constant demands of life make it really hard to find the time. When you engage monk mode, you cut out so many social and physical distractions that it will become much easier to work towards your big goals.
- Break free of addictions or bad habits. We all have our weaknesses. And sometimes, those weaknesses become bad habits or even dangerous addictions. Whether you struggle with video games, adult movies, alcohol, or moreーthe mental reset and focus on inner self that comes with monk mode will make it the opportune time to finally overcome your toughest addictions.
#2 Be Prepared For The Challenge
I hope that my post fills you with energy, excitement, and motivation to dive head first into monk mode.
However, I do want you to realize that motivation is fleeting. You’ve probably experienced this if you have ever made a New Year’s resolution only to backpedal on it within a few weeks or even days.
Once the hardships of monk mode truly present themselves, and your motivation runs dry, you will be tempted to go back to life as usual. That being said, here are some of the challenges that you need to consider today so that you’ll be prepared when they present themselves months down the line:
- The need for stimulation (mental, physical, social and otherwise)
- Pessimism or malaise resulting from prolonged isolation
- Push back from friends and family
- Temptations of pride or superiority over others
- Self-loathing as you become more aware of your
#3 Choose Your Monk Mode Time Frame
Going monk can be a short term adjustment or it can be a life long pursuit. It really depends on you, your obligations to other people, and the goals you want to achieve. So before you start, you should establish the time parameters of your monk mode journey.
Here are a few guidelines to consider:
Stay in monk mode for at least one month. Any less time than this isn’t enough to get used to the system or achieve any benefits. Ideally, a better minimum is three months, but that’s not always possible for people to commit to.
Set enough time to achieve your goal. If you are going monk so that you can accomplish one of your big goals like writing a novel, you need to set aside enough time to actually take great strides towards it.
#4 Get Others On Board
Don’t isolate yourself in isolation!
Really, what I mean is that you can’t neglect your responsibilities in life.
There are people in your life who love and rely on you. So before going into monk mode, you do have a responsibility to let them know what you are doing and to tie up any loose ends.
For example, going full monk is likely impossible if you are married. But, you may be able to arrange with your spouse several hours per day of complete, personal isolation. When Greg McKeown was writing one of his books, for instance, spent 5 days per week for 9 months writing in a small office from 5:00 AM to 1:00 PMーan arrangement his wife was happy to abide.
#5 Consciously Eliminate Social Activities
Monks of many traditions are known for establishing “rules” to govern their lives. And you need to establish rules for how you are going to cut down severely on social activities. If you are a natural introvert, this might not be hard for you. But if you can already feel the pains of isolation in your gut, consider setting a hard and fast rule along these lines:
- I will only socialize for two hours per week.
- I will eliminate all but two of my current recurring obligations and I will not accept any new ones.
- I will only socialize on Saturday and Sunday evenings.
#6 Severely Restrict Social Media and Other Electronic Communications
Social media is perhaps the biggest distraction of the 21st century. Whether you’re checking out the latest new thing or staying up to date on world events, you could literally spend your entire life browsing and never see a fraction of the content out there.
That’s why you absolutely must restrict your social media engagement. One of the easiest ways to do this is to simply delete them from your phone. They are much less habitual when accessed from a computer. However, you also need to set a rule to limit your usage, like “I will only spend 30 minutes each day across all networks”.
The next big trouble is email. A good way to eliminate this distraction is to set up an autoresponse to let others know that you only check your email every three days. This way, anyone who actually needs your attention will call you (which many people don’t want to do). And, by the time you finally get around to responding to people, they likely will have worked out problems on their own.
#7 Cut Out Pointless Noise
Monk mode is all about enhancing your sense of the self. Unfortunately, our brains hate silence. When we are alone with the self, we are forced to confront our fears, anxieties, vices, and bad habits.
So how do we distract ourselves? With pointless noise. It takes lots of forms. Eliminating networks like Facebook and Instagram as discussed above is a great first step.
But what about Netflix? What about video games? What about idle chit-chat? Even reading books can be a form of escapism and distraction.
Like it or not, cutting out activities that are really just noise is the only way to truly look inward. It’s going to be hard work, but if you value the state of your mind and are serious about monk mode, it will be worth it.
#8 Eliminate Gluttony in All Its Forms
In addition to glutting ourselves on endless distractions from media, we also drown out our inner voice with excessive enjoyment of food, drink, and more.
So one important facet of monk mode is identifying and eliminating your sources of gluttonyーexcessive enjoyment of physical pleasures. Here are some of the temptations you should consider cutting out completely or severely restricting:
- Sweets and sugary drinks
- Snacks between meals
- Fast food
- Adult movies and sex
Monks focused on self improvement would often engage in fasting as a way to directly combat gluttony. Rather than simply taking things out of your life, fasting is like actively adding a new part of who you are as a person.
There are lots of ways to fast. You could decide to eat only one meal three days a week. Or, every day, you might refrain from eating until 3 o’clock.
#9 Engage in Meaningful Reading
So, you have emptied your mind of needless distraction and freed up your schedule. So now what?
Well, monk mode is ideal for meaningful reading. And no, I’m not talking about catching up on that 15-book series that you’ve been putting off for months.
I’m talking about spending long hours on the types of self improvement books that will help you transform into a different person. Read books that help you learn new skills. Read a blog that is written by a person who you aspire to be like.
#10 Practice Daily Meditation
Perhaps the most iconic part of life as a monk is meditation. While you can find all manner of in-depth guides, books, and blog posts about meditationーplenty of men and women manage to learn how to do it well without much instruction at all.
The real trick to meditation is simply practice.
When you start monk mode, you should set aside at least 15 minutes every day, ideally in the morning, for meditation. As you get deeper into your life as a monk, you may want to increase the length of your sessions.
So what do you do during meditation? Simply sit in quietness and let things come and go from your mind. People often feel the need to fight back against distractions. But they will come, with or without you. The best approach is simply to sit, be aware of your thoughts and emotions, and enjoy the quiet.
Once you’ve established a habit of daily meditation and stuck to it for at least a month, then you may be ready to seek out guidance on how to get better at it. But the hardest part for most people is simply making it a routine.
#11 Schedule Time for Deep Work
As I mentioned already, monk mode gives you a chance to work towards lofty goals. So be sure to add a deep work session or two to your daily schedule. These are several hours during which your only focus is to take massive action on one of the things that you value most.
This is when you write that novel.
This is when you do those workouts.
This is when you build your business.
Your mind is free of distraction and your life is your own to direct. These deep work sessions are your chance to make the most of monk mode.
Monk Mode Habits
It’s not easy to commit to monk mode. Your brain is programmed to seek dopamine from instantly pleasurable activities that distract you from your long-term goals, so you’ll often need to take active steps to stop yourself from falling into that trap.
Here are some helpful habits to help you succeed in your monk mode challenge.
Wake up Early
Many people find they can be more productive in the early hours of the morning because there are less distractions while the rest of the world is sleeping.
You’ll need to go to bed early as well though, otherwise fatigue is likely to make your less productive. See my guide on creating an effective night routine for assistance with this.
Turn your Smartphone Off
You’ll be avoiding social interactions during monk mode, so there’s reason to have your smartphone turned on. It will only serve to distract you from what you should be doing.
If turning your phone off isn’t an option, at least commit to turning off all push notifications so you’re not distracted by other things.
It can help to add social media blockers to your laptop too.
Your ultimate goal might inspire you, but it’s easy to lose motivation when the finish line is so far away. You can keep your motivation sparked by splitting your main goal into mini-goals.
Consider creating daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly goals. Write them down on your Notes app, a Google Spreadsheet or inside a physical notebook.
My SMART goals guide will help you set goals that excite you and push you forward.
Make Yourself Accountable
Accountability is a powerful factor that helps people achieve what they say they’re going to.
Few people want to look like a failure in front of their peers. That’s why it’s recommended to tell your friends and family members about your monk mode challenge.
Let them how long you’re planning to remain in monk mode and what you’re going to achieve. Then, if they catch you slipping away, you’re likely to feel a sense of guilt or shame.
Avoiding these emotions can be enough to keep you on track to reach your professional or physical goals.
Monk Mode Books
- Think Like A Monk by Jay Shetty
- Monk Mode: Be More By Doing Less by Mesac Adna
- A Monk’s Guide To A Clean House And Mind by Shoukei Matsumoto
Monk Mode Challenge
So, there you have it.
Are you excited about the benefits that monk mode could bring to your life?
If so, why not set yourself a monk mode challenge? Now is the perfect time to start.
Choose your style of monk mode, outline what you hope to achieve, then give yourself a certain number of days to do so.
I’d recommend going for at least 28 days, as this is how long the human brain takes to accept a habit without resistance.
Perhaps you’ll slip up the first time. Don’t let that get you down. If that happens again, start again and aim for a new personal record for sticking to your monk mode lifestyle.
It would be great to hear about the benefits that monk mode gave you.
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