Monk mode: Want to improve your life quickly?

Ever seen the movie Click? 

Where Adam Sandler finds the universal remote and can fast-forward, rewind or pause his life. 

The movie isn’t great but when you watch it you realize how life just gets in the way of the important things. 

Sometimes you just can’t find the time to focus. Whether it's on your career, health, or family. 

A universal remote to hit pause where everything around you stops so you can focus on something important would be life-changing. 

Monk mode is similar. In a sense. You can’t exactly pause time but you can hit pause on everything that isn’t critical to your mission.

As the name suggests it simply means to shut off from the world and become deeply focused. The same way a monk would. Monks remove themselves from everyday life and become committed to their practice.

In monk mode, you usually have a specific routine and focus on one main goal.

Nothing else matters and for all you know nothing else is even happening. You’re far too removed to even know.

It’s an extreme approach to “leveling up” and having serious intent with your money, energy, attention, and time. 

Monk mode is not about balance. It’s an extreme approach to achieving something specific.

If you find yourself struggling with achieving a goal, breaking a bad habit, your mental state, or spending time with your family,  a radical shift can help. There are likely healthier, less intense ways of doing this although the focused period will help you level up quickly.

When to get into monk mode

This isn’t for the faint-hearted. It requires deep intention, discipline, and preparation.

Balance doesn’t exist with monk mode. 

In fact, it’s almost impossible to get into monk mode unless you have deep intention. You should ask yourself the following questions first:

  • What am I struggling with right now?
  • What have I put off for way too long?
  • What do I need to do to reach a goal that right now seems out of reach?
  • If I had 90 days of intense focus what would I focus on?

If you can answer these questions then monk mode might be a good option for you. 

People approach this in many different ways. And in this case, there isn’t a right or wrong approach. 

However, the common goal is to improve your life in a short period of time.

You can’t become a successful entrepreneur without spending time building your business. In the same way, you can’t become an athlete without adhering to a specific training regime. These both require extreme dedication to one specific thing.

1. When you want to achieve an audacious goal

Most people have a goal or two they’ve been flirting with for a while. Maybe it’s getting a promotion, landing a new job, starting a blog, or finding more customers for your business. 

Whatever it is. It’s escaped you.

Monk mode can reign the focus back to this one goal. 

If you want to start a blog or get under 15% body fat it’s going to require deep focus. It is best to focus on a goal you have complete control over - getting a promotion for instance is out of your control.

The core of monk mode is a strict routine. The routine is conducive to you achieving a goal since it’s designed to force you to work on the thing you’ve been avoiding. 

2. When you want to learn more about yourself

Monk mode is a great way to initiate some self-discovery. Since monk mode requires you to cut out as many distractions as possible it’s easier to focus on yourself. 

In today's day and age, it’s pretty difficult to switch off, let alone spend some time thinking about what you want in life. 

In monk mode, you adhere to a specific routine. Journaling and/or meditation is usually a core component of this. Through journaling, you will start to see patterns in your emotional state which will force you to reflect.

3. When you want to break a bad habit

Bad habits compound over time.

They ruin your health and waste your time. 

And the longer you continue them the harder they are to break. Especially ones that you build a dependence on. 

This could be smoking, late-night snacking, watching porn, drugs, gaming, etc. Habit formation is a complex topic and requires expert input. 

James Clear goes deep into the anatomy of habits. He suggests that habits are usually formed out of stress and boredom. When breaking a bad habit, the best approach is to replace it with a good one. 

For instance, if you check your phone first thing in the morning and spend an hour scrolling you could place your phone in a different room. From here you could put a bottle of water in the same spot as your phone so that when you wake up the first thing you do is take a sip. Now you’ll check your phone less and be more hydrated. 

Or if you spend hours scrolling through TikTok you can delete the app and buy a coloring book. Every time you feel the urge to scroll through Tiktok because you’re bored you can color something. Eventually, the urge will go away and you’ll have a book full of color. 

Again, a well-thought-out routine and deep intention will help you break a bad habit and replace it with a good one.

How to get into monk mode

Realizing there’s a problem or an opportunity is usually the hardest part about monk mode. 

Although, having a routine is what will make or break your monk mode. 

You really need to buy into what you’re doing.

Of course, having an intention is not enough. Neither is motivation. 

If you follow the actionable steps below you’ll be able to get the most out of monk mode.

1. Set SMART goals 

A SMART goal is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. Without setting yourself a smart goal you’ll increase the chance of failing.

Specific: For the goal to be effective it needs to be specific. You can’t achieve a goal if you don't know what the goal is. So, what exactly are you trying to accomplish? It also helps to make sure the goal is simple and significant. This could be losing 10 pounds of fat or publishing 50 blog posts.

Measurable: Having a metric to which you measure the goal keeps tracking easy. For instance, if your goal is to lose weight you might say I want to lose 10 pounds before Christmas - which equates to 1 pound per week. This is specific and measurable. Likewise, if you want to write more blog posts you should aim for 50 blog posts in total, which could be 5 per week for 10 weeks. 

Achievable: If your goal isn’t realistic you won’t have the motivation or discipline to work towards it. Make sure you work backward from your end goal and actually determine if it’s feasible. If not, extend your timeline or bring in the scope. Something unachievable would be “becoming a millionaire by the end of the year” or “get to 10% body fat in 30 days”. These goals are unrealistic and will leave you miserable when you fail to make small wins. 

Relevant: This is where you want to reflect back on the questions you asked to determine if monk mode is for you. What is your intention behind this? Make sure the goals you set are actually relevant to you and will move the needle. If you don’t buy into your goal then you won’t get very far.

Time-based: This one is fairly straightforward. You MUST have a deadline for your goal. It’s not enough to simply say you want to achieve something, you need to set a clear deadline for when it needs to be done. The Yerkes-Dodson Law is one possible explanation for why setting a deadline will help you be more productive. The longer you spend on something without a clear deadline the more likely your performance will be impaired as a result of stronger anxiety. 

2. Build a system 

Knowing what you want to achieve in monk mode is one thing. Having a system in place to achieve this is another. To make the most of monk mode you’ll need both. 

In Atomic Habits, James Clear discusses the importance of this using the analogy of rudders and oars of a small boat. Where the rudder is the goal and the oar is the system. The rudder will point you in the direction you want to go (your goal) and the oar is the system you use to get you there (the system). 

Routines are also an integral part of building a system. Many people who get into monk mode have highly specific routines

When it comes to routines the best thing to do is to prepare this in advance. You won’t be able to wake up and execute a routine on the fly. 

Every routine will be different and specific, however, all routines should include meditation, journaling, and exercise since they’re proven to be good for you. 

3. Track your progress

Holding yourself accountable is important. This can be hard to do if you don’t track your progress. A super simple way to do this is to journal each day. 

You can build this into your daily routine and it will help you stay accountable. It’s important to note that journaling has many other benefits.

A study conducted in 2006 found that people who journaled for two 15-minute sessions twice during the week had a significantly greater decrease in their psychological symptoms. 

[Related: The simple guide to journaling for men]

4. Establish your boundaries 

Boundaries will stop you from getting distracted or committing to things you later regret. 

However, you need to work this out ahead of time.

As they say, failing to plan is planning to fail.

Ask yourself:

  • What do I need to give up in this period?
  • When and who will I socialize with?
  • How can I say no to the people I care about without being rude?
  • What might throw me off my routine and how can I mitigate this risk early?

Benefits of monk mode

This might seem like a lot.

You might be questioning whether you really want to put in this type of work.

It’s hard. 

However, the benefits are truly incredible. 

do nothing vs do something everyday
the mathematical benefit of monk mode

1. You will gain some serious productivity

Monk mode will help you focus and get sh*t done. Since it will make you more productive than ever, you can achieve your goals faster.

Monk mode is a mindset that allows you to stay highly focused on the task at hand and shut out distractions, which leads to getting more done in less time. 

Think of the hero’s journey. At some point, the hero leaves his home and embarks on a quest in a foreign environment, with lots of challenges before returning home transformed and enlightened with new knowledge and power. The hero goes from an ordinary man into a legend through this journey - think Odysseus or Luke Skywalker

2. You will stop fearing "missing out"

You only get a limited amount of hours a day, and if you're not careful, your attention can be sucked up by every shiny object that crosses your path. It might be tempting to hear about the amazing things happening in other people's lives - a new app a friend just launched, an article they wrote that got 100K page views, or the cool party they went to last weekend.

But when you're in monk mode, you don't care about what other people are doing. You have a single-minded focus on what's most important for your life and your business. 

You know that you'll be able to enjoy these things soon. But until then you have a mission to complete.

3. You will improve your self-esteem

In monk mode, you will realize that you are powerful. 

This is the most important reason on this list. Giving yourself the space to go all-in on something and make progress will inevitably increase your confidence.  

It's only in our heads that we feel like our circumstances limit what we can do. 

Since you won't depend on others for help and/or support as much you’ll naturally improve your self-esteem. It will be on you to focus and make progress.

4. Your values and purpose in life will become clearer

One of the most important discoveries you will make is what you value and what your purpose is in life.

When you are constantly distracted, it’s hard to even think about what you value or why you are here. In fact, one of the first things that happen when we slow down and create space for ourselves is that we start to remember who we truly are and what we want out of life.

Living a slower, simpler way of life can also help us tap into our true purpose because it gives us more time to reflect on how we want to serve others. 

If a monk can find his purpose while living an isolated, meditative lifestyle then surely people in monk mode can achieve a similar result. 

Should you get into monk mode?

Considering monk mode can be extreme you need to spend time thinking about why you want to do this.

You probably have an idea already.

If you've ever struggled with discipline, you have low confidence, or you're struggling with something else in your life I highly suggest it. But know one thing. It will not make you happy, not immediately anyway.

Here are three men who entered monk mode to achieve greatness

By now you should be convinced that monk mode is essential at some point in your life.

However, I want to make this more compelling. 

Here are three high-value men who once entered monk mode and come out on top. All of them have incredible transformations. Not just physically, but mentally and financially.

David Goggins is an author, endurance athlete, public speaker, and retired Navy Seal. He’s known for this transformation from a broke, overweight exterminator to a Navy Seal. His story has been shared all across the internet, even in a famous podcast with Joe Rogan. Goggins is a testament to the impact monk mode can have.

Kris from 1stMan is a less famous YouTuber who documented his transformation. He mostly shares body language analysis videos. However, he tracked his progress over two years and the difference is significant.

Alex Volkanovski is the current UFC Featherweight Champion. He was a former concreter and overweight rugby player, once weighing 214 pounds. He became deeply focused on one thing which was MMA.

Pros and cons of monk mode

Don't be fooled, monk mode isn't all upside. It might seem like the perfect option for you but it's important to consider the downside as well. Below are all the pros and cons I can think of for entering monk mode.

Ability to achieve an audacious goal in a short period of timeCan deteriorate your mental health if you're not already in a good headspace
Easier to break a bad habit with the "cold turkey" approachA very extreme approach to focus
Pushing yourself can give you confidence when you achieve things you didn't think were possibleCan ruin your meaningful relationships
One bout of monk mode could change the direction of your life for the betterEncourages neglecting everything else in your life (family, health, etc)
If you achieve your goals you can inspire other people Not sustainable which makes it easy to relapse
Can learn a lot about yourself in a short period of timeVery lonely

My personal experience with monk mode

I first learned about monk mode on YouTube. It resonated with me immediately. S of course, I had to give it a go and see what I could achieve. Here are the two bouts of monk mode I've entered and how they went.

  • December 2020 monk mode: I entered monk mode during the last month of 2020 to build a business with my close pal Sam. I quit Jiu-Jitsu and dedicated every single morning and night to building my new startup called Ticker Nerd. My protocol involved waking up at 6:15 am every morning, meditating, and going to my local cafe to work for two hours before I started my day job. At night I would spend another two hours working on the startup. The gym happened during work breaks. I did this for a couple of months and eventually, the business grew. In 2021 it was acquired by a Fintech company called Finder. You can read about it here.
  • July 2022 Monk mode: After I sold Ticker Nerd and joined the Finder team I wanted to build a content site. This involves a lot of research and a lot of writing. So I decided to do the same thing. I buckled down for a couple of months and ensured every single morning and night was dedicated to writing and researching. I didn't do anything else. I stopped traveling and going out and I even cut spearfishing on the weekends so I had more time to build the site. The site continues to grow and I would attribute this to being in a state of monk mode.

I don't think this is a sustainable way to live, and it's very easy to burn yourself out. It's also lonely, you spend a lot of time alone working towards a very specific goal in a constant state of anxiety. You're frantically trying to make something work. In my opinion, the downside still doesn't outweigh the upside. If you want great things to happen then you need to be willing to sacrifice something.

Closing remarks

The idea of monk mode isn't new.

It's an old concept that has been adapted to the modern world. 

The main philosophy is to reduce input into your life, while at the same time maximizing output. 

To get into monk mode quickly, do the following:

  1. Set SMART goals
  2. Build a system for your monk mode
  3. Track your progress
  4. Establish your boundaries

Remember, monk mode is a way to make your mind stronger and more focused on achieving goals that are important to you.