Elon Musk is one of the world’s most renowned businessmen, with an extensive record reaching well back into the 1990s. After founding Zip2, which was bought for $307 million by Compaq, and X.com (which later became PayPal and was bought for $1.5 billion by eBay), he began to focus on Tesla and SpaceX, worth $51 billion and $21 billion, respectively, and his two primary focuses today. He’s also involved with other projects, notably Hyperloop, which aims to fling us through tubes at 5,000 mile per hour, as well as The Boring Company, an infrastructure and tunnel construction company. In addition to being a serial entrepreneur, he a the father to six children and is regularly engaged in media appearances and events.
So, if one of the world’s busiest people can still find time for a family, hobbies and side-projects, why can’t you?
How Elon Musk manages his time efficiently
Musk’s approach to work is fairly straightforward. Put in more hours than your competitors and over time, you’ll give yourself the opportunity to achieve more than they do.
“Work like hell. I mean you just have to put in 80 to 100 hour weeks every week… If other people are putting in 40 hour workweeks and you’re putting in 100 hour workweeks, then even if you’re doing the same thing, you know that you will achieve in four months what it takes them a year to achieve,” said Musk.
Musk is known to be one of the most efficient businessmen alive, and he attributes that mainly to his approach to his daily schedule. Specifically, Musk utilizes ‘Batching’ – a technique used by many well-known businesspeople – including Bill Gates – to group multiple tasks at once. For example, he may respond to emails while having a meeting over lunch.
The other approach that Elon uses on a daily basis is to break his day into 5-minute time slots. This ultimately means that he can tackle up to 12 different tasks in a single-hour period – crucial for someone who is being hit with new problems or challenges every day. He makes a habit of moving onto the next task immediately after each 5-minute block elapses (unless he knows that an assignment will take more than five minutes).
How to build productivity habits in order to become as efficient as Elon Musk
Taking a new approach to how you structure your day, or even beginning to structure your day in some fashion, is arguably one of the hardest work habits to develop. The reason Elon Musk structures his day into 5-minute windows is to ensure that he wastes as little of his day as possible.
Try implementing some of the following steps to put you into the habit of not only planning but also saying ‘no’ to tasks which might be consuming your time unnecessarily.
1. Before you begin working, list all of your tasks for the day ahead
While Elon Musk has the luxury of staff dedicated to structuring and planning his day for him, you will have to take care of that for yourself – at least for now! Start by getting into the habit of planning for tomorrow today, and introduce a task like:
“Spend 5 minutes writing down all tasks that I need to complete tomorrow, ignoring importance/urgency.”
Treat this as a daily brain dump, with the aim of getting everything down on paper and out of your head. It’s probably best to do this either before bed or as you’re wrapping up your work for the day.
2. Prioritize tasks based on their importance/deadlines
Take the list of tasks and develop an importance scale to prioritize them into whatever levels of criticality you wish. One basic, useful structure to follow is the ‘today,’ ‘this week,’ and ‘not a priority’ format. This is the point where you really need to ask yourself the question “is this task requiredwithin the next 24 hours?” Once you’ve done that you can then:
“Define three tasks that must be done today.”
We suggest you limit the number of ‘today’ tasks you label as it’s easy to over-prioritize things that aren’t that important. These ‘today’ tasks are the three things you’re going to work on tomorrow, regardless of whatever else happens.
3. Schedule Your Tasks in a Calendar
Now that you’ve determined which tasks must be done the next day you should schedule them into your calendar. As Tony Robbins suggests, “If you talk about it, it’s a dream, if you envision it, it’s possible, but if you schedule it, it’s real.”
By drawing inspiration from the habits of Elon Musk, you should structure your schedule into segments. While Musk prefers 5-minute windows, you might be better off starting with breaking your day into 3-6 one-hour blocks and working up to 5 minute windows once you’re comfortable. Start off by tasking yourself with:
“Schedule all must do tasks in my calendar the night before.”
Depending on the length of the “today” tasks you may or may not have enough room in your calendar for other projects. If there are ‘blocks’ of time free, then you can go back to your prioritized task list and choose the next most important task to slot into your schedule. With that said, of course it’s important to focus on integrating your most urgent tasks into your calendar.
Ultimately, before you end your day, you should know which tasks you’re going to complete tomorrow and when.