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An Unlikely Secret to Extreme Productivity

Facing an extreme time crunch? It might be time to take extreme measures and go into 'Monk Mode.'
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Where do you look for productivity tips? To authors, blogs, famous entrepreneurs, other ninjas you admire for getting tons of stuff done? All of these are likely sources, but when author Greg McKeown faced an extreme time crunch as the deadline to hand in his latest manuscript approached, he turned to his wife for advice.

And where did she turn?

To the cloistered religious orders. Bet you didn’t see that one coming. Together the couple crafted a plan to help McKeown complete his book on time that they dubbed ‘Monk Mode.’ McKeown recently explained on LinkedIn how it worked: "we decided I would write from 5AM to 1PM every day. I did that for five days a week for about 9 months. I worked from a small office -- tiny really--but in it I found space. And in that space I found creative freedom."

To keep the rest of the world at bay and carve out this time for head-down work, McGeown stuck this autoresponder on his email:

Dear Friends,

I am currently working on a new book which has put enormous burdens on my time. Unfortunately, I am unable to respond in the manner than I would like. For this, I apologize.

-- Greg

p.s. If this is a continuing conversation, please ignore and expect my response in the near future.

Not only did basically no one complain about receiving this email brush off, McGeown also reports that his routine made writing the book flow smoothly and allowed him to still carve out time for his family. Now that Monk Mode is over, he says he really misses it. All of which is great for a writer with understanding family and friends. But the idea of Monk Mode couldn’t possibly work for a busy business owner, could it?

McGeown begs to disagree. Desperate times, he writes, call for desperate measures. "Is what I did extreme? Yes. Do we live in an extreme era? Yes. The work world is infected with the disease of busyness. People often experience motion sickness rather than momentum. They become tricked by the trivial. So I would argue that an extreme routine is only reasonable in such an extreme environment," he says, concluding that "as knowledge workers we need to advocate for space so we can find the signal in the sound. As managers we need to protect our people's space to think, concentrate and get things done."

Could Monk Mode become part of your productivity toolkit?

 

Last updated: Nov 19, 2013

JESSICA STILLMAN

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.




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