scorecardI used the viral 'monk mode' productivity hack to transform my morning routine – here's how it works
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I used the viral 'monk mode' productivity hack to transform my morning routine – here's how it works

Ella Hopkins   

I used the viral 'monk mode' productivity hack to transform my morning routine – here's how it works
Careers3 min read
Rachel Harris made her shed office comfortable and calming for working in monk mode.    Courtesy of Rachel Harris
  • "Monk mode" is the practice of working on just one task and not giving in to distractions.
  • Rachel Harris, cofounder of an accountancy firm, tried the hack after hearing about it on YouTube.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Rachel Harris, a 29-year-old cofounder and director of an accountancy company, from Buckinghamshire, England. Insider has verified her business revenue. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

I founded striveX, an accountancy practice, with my husband, James, in July 2020, after 10 years working in accountancy firms.

It started with us planning around our dinner table. Now we have more than 600 clients — from people with side hustles to businesses. We brought in £71,500, or about $85,700, in revenue in January.

We offer clients a free business-planning session and sessions for our clients to network with each other.

I'm profoundly deaf. I get hearing fatigue when I'm around people all day, so I prefer to work from home most of the time.

I use 'monk mode' for deep, head-down focus. My phone has to be in airplane mode.

I first heard about monk mode on YouTube two years ago. I had tried other productivity hacks, such as getting up at 5 a.m. and taking a freezing shower before starting work. Those didn't work because I didn't enjoy them.

When I tried monk mode, I prioritized comfort. I do it in my pajamas with my wearable blanket on top and work from my shed office at the end of our garden. That space is mine. It's painted my favorite shade of pink, and I keep the lighting dim and calming to get into the zone.

I'm an introvert but I spend most of my day talking to people. To have silence at the start of the day is really important.

I start monk mode at 6 a.m., before I get dressed, take a shower, or do my daily yoga

My day is split into two sections: monk mode and everything else. In monk mode — the first two hours of my day — I do what a lot of people would spend more time on during their nine-to-five.

I get around 150 emails a day. During monk mode, I clear my inbox, respond to emails, and schedule meetings. I never have an email sitting in my inbox for more than 24 hours. Once I've finished my two hours at 8 a.m., I close emails for the day.

Otherwise, I know I'd spend my whole day at work in my inbox. I find if I respond to emails throughout the day, people reply to me instantly. It gets chaotic.

I spend the first 15 minutes of my day categorizing my emails into 'quick ticks,' tasks, and projects

I sort my emails into categories — from those that take the least time to the most time to deal with. Grouping the tasks together helps me to be productive.

"Quick ticks" are what I call emails that need an urgent response but will take less than 30 seconds to write, such as accepting a meeting invite. Getting through these emails takes me between 50 minutes and an hour.

I spend the last 45 minutes of monk mode on longer-term tasks. Tasks are things that take longer than a quick email. I work on some tasks, such as marketing requests, in this time, as well as scheduling time to get projects done during the week.

Projects take longer than tasks and are activities I need to schedule a block of time to complete later in the day or week. These tend to be about improving an aspect of the business or building another passive revenue stream into the business.

I spend my 9-to-5 meeting clients and scaling my business

From 8 a.m. to 9 a.m, I practice yoga, have a shower, and get ready for the day. I like having a clear separation between monk mode and the rest of the day at my desk.

I use the rest of the day focusing on scaling the business — speaking to prospective clients, working on personal development with members of my team, and organizing events. I'll typically spend two days a week meeting with prospective clients and three days on other projects.

Getting my emails out of the way by 8 a.m. gives me the headspace to focus on those tasks for the rest of my day. It's therapeutic.

We encourage a hybrid-working schedule. I go into the office once a week for lunch with my team.

Though I try to finish work at 5 p.m. at least two days a week, I often work long hours. But I don't mind because I love building this business.