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 an AI blog.
- He was struggling to achieve his career goals, getting derailed by distractions and procrastination.
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 making $75,000 a year as a software engineer, part time for my own clients as a freelance software developer (I've already made another $30,000 from my business this year), and run a startup (a blog about artificial intelligence).
Every workday, I would start strong but would soon get derailed by 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 spend five minutes just figuring out where I left off. I knew I needed a change, but I didn't know where to start.
Then I came across an article about "monk mode" on the blogging platform Medium, which is a method for giving your full attention to whatever you are working on 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 being perfect or achieving everything at once; it's about focusing on what's important and using your time the best way you can — starting small and building up over time.
I first tried monk mode in February 2022. What I was aiming for was a complete, productive focus on my work. I 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 since I knew I was spending way too much time on these activities. I calculated 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 set 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 the technique, I created a strict routine. The night before each workday, I made a list of the hardest work tasks I needed to accomplish the next day. I woke up at 5 a.m., had coffee, read my Bible, and then entered my first round of monk mode to begin tackling that list.
At 8 a.m., I did a quick workout, ate a light 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.
Later in the day, I also started using the Pomodoro technique. This involves working for 25 minutes straight and then taking a five-minute break. I found that using this along with monk mode was even more powerful at helping me maintain my focus when doing tedious tasks, and it helped me prevent burnout.
I also incorporated the "eat the frog" technique into my routine, which suggests you start your day by completing the most difficult or unpleasant task first. I found this helped to build momentum and set the tone for the rest of the day.
The final piece of the puzzle was maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Right after putting my phone in the other room so it wouldn't distract me during monk mode, I would fill up a big glass of water and put together a healthy bowl of snacks such as nuts and veggies to keep nearby. This really helped me eliminate going to the kitchen when I felt bored.
I also made sure to eat mainly raw vegetables and steered clear of wheat, sugar, and dairy. I would make a point to drink plenty of water and get at least seven hours of sleep. By taking care of my body, I found not only that I had more energy and was able to work longer without feeling fatigued, but that my mental clarity and ability to problem-solve increased tenfold!
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.
- My fiancé and I picked out my engagement ring together before he proposed, and I don't regret missing out on the surprise
- A 24-year-old stock trader who made over $8 million in 2 years shares the 4 indicators he uses as his guides to buy and sell
- You can buy more Yeezys today, if you can get past the app crashes and error messages
- Two Mukesh Ambani-owned companies are among India’s top 5 valuable brands
- TVS, Ather, Ola hike prices of electric two-wheelers as new subsidy norms kick in
- IKIO Lighting sets IPO price band at ₹270-285/share
- Royal Enfield sales rise 22% in May at 77,461 units
- GST collection rises 12% to ₹1.57 lakh crore in May