6 Nov 2023DisruptorsFeeling tethered to tech? Time to go ‘monk mode’

We are spending more than ever in front of screens, making it all but impossible to escape a world of constant distraction. In an attempt to be more productive, the ‘monk mode’ movement takes inspiration from the devout, not the digital – creating a space to concentrate, stay focused, and thrive.

Alex StrangAlex Strang is a senior insight editor at Canvas8 who used to be in a punk band that was signed, shaped, and spat out. He enjoys using his experience of being the product to help brands understand how to sell theirs. After studying philosophy and critical theory, he found his feet in the market research world and has been over-analysing consumer behaviour ever since, including his own. He can usually be found playing board games, watching Seinfeld, or trying too hard to make his daughter laugh.

Whether we like it or not, we are online all the time and screen time is at an all-time high as a result.

In fact, statistics released in 2023 suggest that the global daily average for screen time is 6 and a half hours a day and the majority of this is split between desktop/laptop computers and mobile devices – 3 hours 46 minutes, and 2 hours 51 minutes respectively.

Being so tethered to tech is having a drastic impact on not only people’s ability to effectively switch off but also their productivity.

While scrolling through social feeds might feel great in the moment – getting a nice healthy dose of dopamine from the algorithm that knows just how to cheer you up – when you get to the end of the day and realise you haven't even looked at your to-do list, let alone checked anything off, it can be a lot.

This is leading to an increased interest in 'monk mode' – ironically, on the very platforms that are usually the time thieves in the first place. Inspired by the tech-averse lifestyles of monks, the movement sees people attempting to not only get a grip on their screen time but also ensure that the time that they do spend in front of screens is productive.

At its heart, monk mode is a productivity movement that promises to help people gain control of their attention span and reclaim their time. By trekking through digital forests completely surrounded by screens of all shapes and sizes, people are looking for guidance on how to make it through the day without being distracted at every turn.

Inspired by mindfulness, minimalism, and dedication, monk mode is about allowing yourself the luxury of focusing on one task completely – committing to a goal, without distraction, and approaching it from a single-minded mindset.

Some tactics promoted by those who swear by the monastic include: blocking out time in your calendar to focus on specific tasks, de-cluttering the space where you work to decrease the chance of distraction, using noise-cancelling headphones to block the world out, and of course – not checking your phone.

But that can be difficult, right? And this is where the real irony comes in. As well as these analogue approaches, the people who are attempting to feel less tethered to tech are turning to....tech.

Apps that allow you to block certain sites, or even completely switch off Internet access like Freedom, FocusMe, and Cold Turkey, are all being used by people in the movement to make it harder for tech distractions to materialise.

But of course, apps and browser extensions can always be switched off, and for people who don't trust themselves to withstand that distraction the world of nostalgic tech beckons.

There's been a huge increase in interest – from Gen Z in particular – in cosplaying as someone from the 00s complete with dumb phones and digital cameras. Calls? Sure. Texts? Yes. Distractions? Absolutely not. As they seek out a healthier relationship with tech and the online world, monk mode may well be a step in the right direction.