‘Monk mode’ was a term originally coined by a software engineer by the name of Ben Orenstein in 2002 as an alternative to multitasking. Multitasking, as the name suggests, entails switching between multiple tasks simultaneously, or in quick succession. ‘Monk mode’ on the other hand, promotes a single task focus through the elimination of all external distractions in order to see it through to completion. The idea behind ‘monk mode’, also know as ‘deep work’ is to increase and drive productivity and focus in a world full of distractions in order to achieve success in professional and personal lives. This is something that a lot of people globally are looking to employ as a means of reducing screen time and the distractions that these provide. On average, South African’s spend 3 hours and 44 minutes on social media platforms daily, according to Media Monitoring software as a service company, Meltwater. This constitutes almost 40% of all time spent online daily, locally.

It can be a little hard to be so focused and disciplined all on your own – without a bit of help. Thankfully these days, help comes in many forms – including a multitude of apps. iPhones have screen time limit settings that can be customised per application. Apple then shares a weekly screentime report that gives users an understanding of where they spent their time and whether or not the amount of time spent online increased or decreased in comparison to the previous period. That being said, there are a number of fully-fledged apps available that are dedicated to helping smart phone users reduce screentime by blocking certain apps for specified periods of time. Such apps include the Freedom app, FocusMe, ColdTurkey and Forest to name a few.

Grace Marshall, productivity coach and author, speaks to just how addictive social media and such sites really are. “You get a ping on a device and it creates an open loop,” says Marshall. “Our brain wants to close that loop by looking at the notification because we get a dopamine [a natural chemical released in the brain that makes you feel good] hit when we close that loop. “Tech is instant, with emails, and [apps like] Slack, Microsoft Teams, and messages. Often people feel like there’s an expectation to be instantly responsive.” She believes that in order to protect people’s work-life balance, workplaces should establish guidelines around expected response times to messages or emails. “It’s not just about the focus and productivity aspect, it’s also about the mental health impact.”