Man with headphones at cafe working

Why workers are switching to monk mode

How shutting out and dialling in can help boost your productivity

Written by Professor Gary Martin FAIM
3 minute read
Man with headphones at cafe working

If you have ever wanted time to yourself without distractions to complete a project, develop a new skill, write a report or finish a high-priority work task, you might benefit from “monk mode”.

Monk mode, which is trending on social media, is an approach to working that draws inspiration from the solitary lifestyle of monks.

Monks dedicate a significant portion of their lives to quiet contemplation by distancing themselves from the distractions of the outside world. They eliminate diversions that could hinder progress towards their spiritual goals.

In the workplace, monk mode involves strategically cutting oneself off from colleagues, technology and other distractions to achieve an objective or task.

Put another way, monk mode is the practice of working in a solitary and focused way on a single task to maximise productivity.

Advocates of monk mode recommend getting started by spending a set period of two to three hours each day across a working week to focus on a single project – blocking out distractions such as emails, social media, colleagues, meetings or phone calls.

Other variations might include a full day each week that is designated specifically for monk mode, combined perhaps with time spent working remotely.

Larger projects or more complex tasks might require a two or three-day lock-away from others or even a week or a month – depending on exactly what has to be achieved.

Regardless of the timeframe adopted, consultation with a supervisor and colleagues is highly recommended. Monk mode works best when there is a general understanding that an individual is choosing this way of working to become more productive and efficient and deliver on priorities.

The concept of monk mode is not new – it has been around for almost two decades and was originally popular among entrepreneurs who needed a focused work environment without distractions to bring their ideas to fruition.

Monk mode has found new prominence courtesy of social media as people explore – and document – better ways of working to try to achieve more balance between the demands of their jobs and their personal lives.

Some believe the monk mode trend is an important part of a significant workplace shift in how people try to get more done, feel less overworked and avoid burnout.

Is monk mode sustainable?

As with all workplace trends, monk mode has its drawbacks and will not suit everyone or all work environments.

It demands that workers have a high level of discipline and self-control to stay on track and avoid diversions that could lead to distractions.

Monk mode can have an impact on mental health if practised in the extreme for extended periods of times.

Critics of this approach to work say monk mode is a way of working that runs counter to the fundamental principles of a healthy workplace – which include collaboration, open communication and responsiveness – and can therefore make some workers feel unsupported and socially isolated.

Either way, if you have been struggling to clear tasks on an ever-growing office to-do list, monk mode might be exactly what you have been looking for.