I'm a software engineer who struggled with procrastination until I tried 'monk mode' — here's how it saves me up to 3 hours a day
Cameron Perrin is a software developer with a full-time job, freelance work, and a startup blog.
He was struggling to achieve his career goals, getting derailed by distractions and procrastination.
But he said the productivity hack "monk mode," which encourages intense focus, changed his life.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Cameron Perrin, a 26-year-old software engineer from Newport Beach, California, about his experience with the productivity hack known as "monk mode." Insider has verified his income with documentation. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
As a person who can easily fall into procrastination and a lack of focus, I found myself constantly struggling to achieve my goals — and I couldn't afford to be so distracted.
I work full time as a software engineer and earn $75,000 a year. I also run a startup blog about artificial intelligence and work part time for my own clients as a freelance software developer, which made me another $30,000 this year.
Every workday, I would start strong but eventually found myself scrolling social media, reading articles, or just aimlessly browsing the internet. By the time I caught myself, my train of thought would be gone and I'd have to figure out where I left off. I knew that I needed a change, but I didn't know where to start.
Then I came across an article about "monk mode" on Medium, which the blog said is a method for focusing your full attention on your work for a set period of time.
At first, it sounded like a radical idea, but the more I read about it the more it made sense. Monk mode is not about trying to achieve everything at once; it's about focusing on what's important and using your time the best way you can — starting small and improving as you go.
I first tried monk mode in February 2022. I was aiming for a complete, productive focus on my work and wanted to hit my goals every day so I wouldn't have to spend my evenings worrying about what I still needed to do.
Monk mode changed my life by showing me how powerful my time really is when I'm disciplined and sticking to a routine. By eliminating distractions and adopting specific strategies, I was able to dramatically increase my work productivity, achieve my business goals, and truly enjoy my downtime.
2 hours of 'monk mode' at a time
I began by committing to two-hour blocks of monk mode at a time.
To prepare for my time in monk mode, I eliminated as many distractions as I could. I turned off my phone notifications and blocked social media sites on my laptop. I calculated that I was spending about one to two hours a day — when factoring in the time it would take to refocus and pick up where I left off, it was roughly three hours of time wasted.
I put my phone in another room and worked in a separate desktop window that had only the tabs I needed open. I also chose only a few specific times for checking my emails and played background music to drown out any sirens or occasional dog barks.
The productivity results were almost immediate: I was accomplishing more tasks in a day than I had previously finished in a week. And I was actually working fewer hours! I was finishing my work day in about six to seven hours instead of working nine to 10 hours.
My 'monk mode' routine
To help maximize my results with monk mode, I created a strict routine. The night before each workday, I made a list of the hardest tasks that I needed to accomplish. Each morning, I woke up at 5 a.m., had coffee, read my Bible, and started my first round of monk mode by tackling that list.
At 8 a.m., I did a quick workout, ate breakfast, and then prepared for my second round of monk mode at 9 a.m. I went back to my specific to-do list for the day, making sure to focus only on completing the hardest tasks first until they were done. If something important came to mind that was off-topic, I made a quick note and pushed it out of my mind. When I finished my second round of monk mode, I checked my emails and laid out a plan for the rest of the day.
Adding in Pomodoro and 'eat the frog'
To enhance my productivity even further, I combined monk mode with other productivity hacks.
That day, I also tried the Pomodoro technique, which involves working for 25 minutes straight before taking a five-minute break. I found that pairing this with monk mode helped me maintain my focus when doing tedious tasks, and prevented burnout.
I also incorporated the "eat the frog" technique into my routine; I started my day with the most difficult or unpleasant tasks, which helped to build momentum and set the tone for the rest of the day.
The final productivity hack was maintaining a healthy lifestyle. After putting my phone somewhere where it wouldn't distract me, I would fill a big glass of water and make a healthy bowl of nuts and veggies to keep nearby. This really helped me eliminate going to the kitchen when I felt bored.
I also mainly ate raw vegetables and steered clear of wheat, sugar, and dairy. I made sure to drink plenty of water and get at least seven hours of sleep. By taking care of my body, I found that I had more energy and was able to work longer without feeling fatigued, which increased my mental clarity and ability to problem-solve.
My tips to help you get started with monk mode
Define your goals by asking yourself, "What do I want to achieve?" — Is it finishing a project? Learning a new skill? Or writing a book? Make a list of your goals and prioritize them.
Decide how long you want to commit to monk mode and set a time frame — It could be a few hours or a day, week, or month. Start with a shorter time frame if you're new to this.
Identify the things that distract you the most and remove them — This could include turning off your phone, disconnecting from social media, or avoiding unnecessary conversations.
Create a daily schedule that outlines your tasks and blocks out specific times for work, rest, and other activities.
Make sure your whole daily routine aligns with your goals. This could include waking up early, exercising, meditating, or reading. The routine should help you get into the right mindset for productivity and will help you stick to the daily task schedule.
Monk mode can be intense, so it's important to take care of your physical and mental health. Eat healthy, get enough sleep, and take all of your scheduled breaks. When the schedule is done, relax and recharge. I found that some days I could finish my entire to-do list in a single day, but often my list would roll over to the next day.
Keep track of your progress with monk mode and adjust your approach as necessary.
Celebrate your successes with the technique and learn from your failures.
Once I began using monk mode, I was happier and less stressed. I was choosing to wake up instead of feeling like work was getting me up. I felt as if I had taken control of my life and was finally on track to achieve my work and business goals.
Read the original article on Business Insider