Elon Musk’s 5 Essential Practices for Productivity

Elon Musk is one of the most interesting and successful persons in the technology world today. Elon is the founder, CEO and CTO of SpaceX, a California-based developer and manufacturer of space launch vehicles. It is the largest private producer of rocket engines in the world. In addition, he is also the co-founder, CEO, and product architect of Tesla, Inc. Other companies that he leads are OpenAI, an artificial intelligence research company; Neuralink, a company developing implantable brain-computer interface; and The Boring Company, involved in infrastructure and tunnel construction for hyperloop transportation.

5 Essential Practices

Aside from being very wealthy and influential, he is also known for having a fascinating work ethic. In this YouTube video from Thomas Frank, we identify and describe 5 of Elon’s productivity practices that may explain how he achieves a surprising amount of accomplishments. These have been compiled from past Q&A and interviews.

1. Shower Every Day

One of the most frequent questions that was asked of him is which daily habit has played the largest positive impact in his life. To this question, his answer was “showering.” To some, it may be a non-serious answer. On the other hand, it can also be a fundamental truth that makes real sense. It can simply mean that when a person takes his personal appearance (and hygiene) seriously, that person takes his work seriously.

It is a mindset that when people start their day clean and fresh, they are more likely to dress in neat and respectable clothing. This helps them feel more confident about themselves and their abilities. Also, cleanliness tend to extend out to tidiness of personal and work spaces, reducing clutter and helping them think clearly. This daily practice eventually leads to a habit that further strengthens people’s willpower and self-discipline.

2. Set an Example for Your Team

Elon Musk is described to be a very demanding CEO by his employees. But being so earns him more respect than contempt. It is because he does not ask others what he himself is not willing to give. For example, he is said to put in between 85 and 100 hours of work per week. He often works in the weekends. And to make sure that his employees see how hard he works for the company, he placed his desk at the factory floor in Tesla, among the desks of his engineers.

When he is not at his desk, he is usually attending meetings, talking to media or visiting suppliers. But when he is not away, he makes sure that his team sees him working hard and long hours. He developed an efficient process of batching tasks and uses the weekend to call suppliers.

3. Use Stretch Goals

Elon likes to set highly ambitious deadlines to his companies’ projects. For instance, he announced that Tesla would start shipping the Roadster model in 2006. That was delayed several times, only shipping in 2008. He is said to be fond of setting stretch goals. A stretch goal can be described as a goal that is beyond someone’s perception of their abilities. It means that he would rather set a very tight, sometimes near-impossible, deadline because he believes that people can deliver if they believed and worked hard enough.

This mindset and practice is one that constantly challenges the self to push past limits that people believe they have. It often falls short to the ultimate goal, but usually also results in greater accomplishments than what people would conveniently set in the first place. And based on what he and his team have achieved so far, it can be inspirational.

4. Develop A Wide Knowledge Base

Elon Musk is among the CEOs that posses deep technical knowledge of their company’ products. He is comfortable talking to his engineers when they discuss problems. His understanding of physics, computer science and engineering allows him to suggest solutions. For example, he would discuss with and question his engineers for hours until he understands and knows enough about a type of component or special material.

He can be described as a T-shaped person, someone who has a deep knowledge and skills in one area and a fairly substantial knowledge in many other areas. This is in contrast to an I-shaped person, or a specialist, or a dash-shaped person, a jack-of-all-trades, but master of none. Aspiring to be a T-shaped person enables one to be able to give meaningful and innovative contributions but also be creative enough to have more than one perspective.

5. Always Assume You Can Improve

When asked to give a single advice, Elon stated that the best possible advice he can give is for people to have a feedback loop. He believes that it is important to constantly think about what you have done and how you could be doing it better. When he first discussed his idea of reusable rockets, some scientists thought he was a fool. Recently, SpaceX made the news for being the first private company to reuse a rocket big enough to send things into orbit.

In another example, when a supplier gave him a quote of $120k for an electromechanical rocket component, he did not made the order. Instead, he asked an engineer to build one with a budget of $5k. The engineer ended building up one for just $3.9k.

Conclusion

A growth-oriented mindset, like the one that Elon Musk has, always believes that change is possible, and changing for the better is a choice. A fixed mindset, in contrast, believes that things are what they are, and there is no need to change or fix anything in the present. Unfortunately, a fixed mindset also promotes stagnation and opposes innovation. To achieve what Elon and his team have achieved, one must simply try to work as hard as they do, beginning with these 5 essential practices for productivity.

Jose Maria Delos Santos

Jose Maria Delos Santos

Jose is a subject matter expert and member of the writing team for Project-Management.com and Bridge24. He has written hundreds of articles including project management software reviews, books reviews, training site reviews, and general articles related to the project management industry.

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