Wed. Aug 10th, 2022

Stephen Jones

Elon Musk

Elon Musk at a press event due to the Tesla Gigafactory near Berlin. Patrick Pleul / picture alliance via Getty Images

  • As CEO of three companies, Elon Musk has a lot on his plate.

  • He works too many hours and divides his time into segments of five minutes to get things done.
  • I tested his system to keep track of my workload. It worked – but was annoyingly inflexible.

Running a business is not easy – let alone three. Elon Musk is the CEO of Tesla, SpaceX and the brain-chip company Neuralink and the founder of The Boring Company.

Musk goes to extreme lengths to keep track of everything. He reportedly works 80-100 hours a week and gets six hours of sleep. He sends emails while in meetings and when he spends time with his sons, he has said.

Musk is known for being careful with his time and dividing his days into five-minute slots to prioritize workloads between his companies. He often misses breakfast, wolves down to his lunch within five minutes and avoids phone calls.

Putting Eric Schmidt’s email technique to the test helped me tackle my inbox. I thought Musk’s time management hack could have the same effect on my ability to organize my time, so I tested it for a few days.

However, I did not go full musk — I bent the rules so I would not skip breakfast or chop up 16-hour days (which is no doubt counterproductive for most people). Instead, I used the five-minute long slots for my usual hours between 8:00 and 5:00 p.m.

It required a lot of planning

Blocking time dedicated to specific tasks is a technique many productivity gurus swear by. But Musks is planning steroids, and it took a lot of preparation.

It’s almost impossible to get anything done properly in five minutes, apart from the odd source email or post on social media. Musk once told Y-Combinator that he spends 80% of his time dedicated to engineering and design, so it’s unlikely that he’s actually limited himself to doing things in five minutes.

I still organized days into five minute slots, but for the majority I put my slots together. I dedicated 12 five-minute slots in a row to writing an interview on Wednesday at. 9 for example. I also planned time for breaks and admin tasks.

Finally, I planned for a while — six five-minute slots — at the end of the day to bind important but non-essential tasks like reading an article that I stumbled upon that day.

I was organized and got a lot more done

Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

Musk is known for being careful with his time. Hannibal Hanschke-Pool / Getty Images

I have a habit of doing tasks longer than they should be – e.g. Rewrite sentences repeatedly. Limiting how much time I had for a particular task meant I got it done faster. Knowing that I only had an hour to do it, I really focused on my mind.

It also helped me remove the unnecessary distractions that can drain productivity, such as Regularly checking my inbox or scrolling through social media.

But it required constant adjustment – which was annoying

Sometimes you can not control when a company responds to a request for comment or when a colleague comes to you with an unexpected task. In some cases, I also realized that I had been too ambitious when I planned how quickly I could get certain tasks done.

That meant I had to constantly rethink my schedule, pushing things back or into the next day as tasks seeped into the time I had planned for others.

This will probably get easier once you start understanding exactly the long things that take, but it was initially frustrating. I also started leaving some blank space in my calendar to provide more flexibility.

There are some parts I will stick to

Overall, as daily routines go, Musk is probably excessive for most workers.

But I will continue with some parts. Scheduling dedicated time, even for the smallest tasks, helped me get them done and made me feel more organized at the end of the day.

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