Monk Mode – The extreme sabbatical

Monk Mode – The extreme sabbatical

From January 2016, I’m being in monk mode for 6 to 8 months. The more popular term for monk mode is probably sabbatical, which indicates a period of leave up to twelve months granted to a university teacher for study and travel, traditionally after every seven years worked. Sabbatical is also getting more and more popular outside universities, in business. People typically take a sabbatical to fulfill some career goal, like writing a book, doing research work, upgrading skills or accomplishing some other thing that everyday work is preventing them from accomplishing. I prefer to call it monk mode, as an extreme version of sabbatical.

As Urban Dictionary describes it, monk mode is the state of being completely focused on training and only training. In monk mode, there are no one-night stands, no alcohol, no excessive fun, only and exclusively training. It’s about unsubscribing yourself from any possible distractions and focusing yourself exclusively on self‑improvement and big goals in life. My goal in monk mode is to squeeze the ultimate focus and personal improvement speed out of me and my life.

First of all, I’m burn all my bridges (It’s not as horrible as it sounds). The next step is eliminating every possible distraction from my life. The only thing I’m not giving up is sex, I guess (with my steady girlfriend, of course). My level of testosterone is too high for that. I will also put some effort into building a social network in the new industry I’m targeting (more about that later). I guess I should call it the soft monk mode then. :)

I’m not the only one or the first one going into monk mode. So here’s a little bit more theory. The monk mode mental framework is based on three I’s: introspection, isolation and improvement. It’s a temporary state where you isolate yourself from the rest of the world to some extent, with the goal of really confronting and focusing yourself, and calibrating your direction for the future.

The idea of being in monk mode is not in hiding away from the world. All in all, you need real-world interaction with other people to really learn and gain experience. It’s more about isolating yourself from distractions and socializing and other activities that could prevent you from leveling up your game and achieving your new big goals.

Sometimes it’s so hard to say no, so if you say no to everyone and everything that’s not strictly connected to your goals and your advancement in life, even if only for a chosen period of time, then things get much easier. Explaining to people that you’re in the monk mode can help you with that.

Monk mode

My personal plan for being in monk mode

There are five main goals I want to achieve by being in monk mode.

  1. The first one is to distance myself from what I’m currently doing (startups) and figure out what exactly I will be doing next (internet entrepreneurship).
  2. The second goal is to develop skills I always wanted to develop but was working too hard to do it (design, front-end, grammar, writing, programming etc.).
  3. The third goal is to find a new revenue stream as soon as possible in the new chosen industry.
  4. The fourth goal is to build a new social network on a global level in the chosen industry.
  5. Last but not least, the fifth goal is to get in shape like I always wanted (if I work too much, my weight skyrockets). I also want to get some rest after 12 years of hard work.

I will enter (soft) monk mode with the start of 2016 and will stay in the mode for 6 to 8 months, in the worst case scenario until the end of 2016. I used November and December last year to clean everything up (commitments, promises etc.) and so I could enter monk mode by keeping my integrity intact.

Now let’s look at the rules I will follow as strictly as possible.

No time wasters at all:

  • No news, conferences or events (I organized, lectured or participated at more than 1,000 events in the past 12 years, so no events at all)
  • No meeting up for coffee or excessive socializing or drinking alcohol
  • No movies  or TV series
  • No social networks (except for marketing activities)
  • No procrastination on the internet
  • No simple sugars or junk food
  • No eating after 7 pm
  • No stress and pressure
  • No traveling
  • No porn, video games or gambling (I don’t do that, but just a reminder in case I go crazy)

No other things, even if they seem important or urgent:

  • No meetings (the rule is that my calendar must be completely empty; in fact I won’t be using a calendar at all)
  • No mentoring people, no lectures, no updates on my Slovenian blog
  • No new contracts or tasks that aren’t connected to my new goals
  • No reading fiction or using apps that aren’t connected to my goals
  • No over-analyzing whether I’m making a mistake by being in monk mode and stressing myself out (this is what I’m going to do for a minimum of 6 months, a maximum of 12 months, and period)
  • No judging and worrying about what other people think of me and my monk mode
  • No dealing with haters whatsoever
  • No replying to e-mails that aren’t connected to my new path and my goals

Other important rules I will follow:

  • Going to bed before midnight
  • Short morning meditation with visualization
  • Cold morning shower to make me more alert
  • Holding my frame with a goal-oriented mindset and no anxiety
  • Smiling as much as possible every day
  • Writing content every day. Writing a lot of content for this blog every day.

Since I won’t have any revenue streams and will be spending only my savings, here are some additional rules regarding making money:

  • I sold my car (not because I have to, but to increase the transaction costs of going anywhere)
  • No shopping and living as frugally as possible
  • With the first money I make, I will travel somewhere
  • I will cook my own meals as many times as possible

There are a few exceptions to the rules so I won’t go crazy. I can:

  • Buy healthy food, food supplements and a gym membership (these things aren’t that cheap)
  • Watch TV shows for two to three days if I come down with the flu or a cold or when I am completely exhausted
  • Socialize for a few hours (not more than two hours) once a week
  • Use IM for chatting with people I’m doing business with on my new path
  • Fulfill all my contractual obligations that I’ve already signed last year. All my current legal obligations should end by the end of March 2016
  • There are a few movies I just can't miss (so I can go once per month to a movie theatre)
  • I can go to a conference or two (in the new industry) and I can take a low-budget trip somewhere close if everything start feeling stifling

There are only five things and activities that I can really perform (80% of my time) in monk mode and are connected to my goals, everything else is a waste:

  • Become really good at (organic) internet marketing, develop an internet business with solid revenue streams and start living the internet solopreneur lifestyle
  • Develop new IT skills: Photoshop, front-end development, writing skills, English skills etc.
  • Getting completely into shape
  • Being a dedicated and loving partner to my girlfriend
  • Reading, reading, reading lots of quality books, blog posts etc.

As going into monk mode, I will also clean my hard drives, e-mail inboxes, e-mail addresses, bookmark bars, Skype contacts and anything else that could distract me from my goals. Starting over from a completely fresh and new beginning.

Interested in updates and my experience with monk mode?

Every one to two months, I will publish an update about my experience with monk mode; so that you know I’m still alive and can see how my isolation is going. It’s quite a radical move, so I’m interested in how things will go. I take it as an experiment.

I am also making sure not to do anything really stupid or big wrong decision. Before deciding to go into monk mode, I made sure:

  • I have enough savings to survive 12 months of a frugal lifestyle
  • I assessed my worst-case scenario and what to do if the monk mode won’t bear any fruit
  • I have a step-by-step plan for which skills I’ll be developing and how
  • I know exactly what my goals are and what kind of business I want to develop
  • I have communicated with others who will be influenced by my radical move, telling them what I will do and why I will do it

So it’s an experiment that I‘ve been planning quite carefully for many months. And there’s also a safety net. As it goes in the AgileLeanLife philosophy, if monk mode won’t work for me and I’ll feel more depressed or not make any progress, I will stop and write honestly about my experience. No bullshit. But I will definitely persist for at least 30 days, because in the beginning, there may be willpower issues and so going out of monk mode may seem tempting.

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