To say that Elon Musk has a lot on his plate is a huge understatement. The uber-productive entrepreneur is best known for his work as CEO of Tesla, which for a short period took over Toyota as the most valuable car company in the world.
Of course, running a company the size of Tesla is very challenging. But Musk is also the CEO of space company SpaceX, which has a stated mission to take humans to Mars and "other destinations in the solar system."
And that's not all. Musk has also founded or is currently playing major roles in a number of other companies, with the following objectives:
- Development of Artificial Intelligence Benefiting All Mankind (OpenAI)
- Development of brain mask interfaces to connect humans and computers (Neuralink) [1
- Produce clean energy via solar panels (Solarcity, a subsidiary of Tesla)
With its supply the mix of so many companies , one might assume that Musk's knowledge of each one is minimal – but that is far from the truth. Garrett Reisman, an engineer and former astronaut who worked for years with Musk after leaving NASA to join SpaceX, marveled at Musk's ability to be in line with minor details at the company.
"I mean, I've met a lot of super, super smart people," Reisman said in a recent interview. "But they're usually super-smart about one thing. And he can have conversations with our top engineers about the software and the most arcane aspects of it. And then he'll turn to our production engineers and discuss some really esoteric welding process for a little crazy alloy."
"And he just wants to go back and forth and his ability to do it across all the different technologies that go into rockets and cars and everything else he does – that's what really impresses me."  So, how does Musk do it? How does he manage his time so that he can remain deeply involved in so many things?
Musk himself revealed a very simple but effective productivity hack in an interview a few years ago:
He shares his time so that he can basically focus on one company at a time.
In a talk with journalist Alison van Diggelen back in 2013, Musk described flying back and forth between northern and southern California, and usually shared his week between his two main businesses as follows:
Friday: Friday ] SpaceX
Sunday: Tesla or SpaceX
Musk indicated that this plan was just an example and changes depending on what he is currently working on . But Reisman's comments matched the story that Musk generally chooses to focus on one company before jumping on a plane and starting the next morning with another.
Of course, few of us are trying to run more companies like Musk is, nor do we have access to a private jet. And to be clear, I don't mind working seven days a week, especially if you have a family like I do.
But I have found great value in separating different aspects of my work after weekdays, and even longer in the morning and afternoon.
This gives huge productivity gains, as it makes it possible to separate time for ideas. and creative work, along with meeting, helping and collaborating with others. It also helps you avoid losing time by constantly switching tasks or trying to multitask.
Furthermore, by keeping projects, client work, or major tasks separate during the day, you can see how complex thoughts between different themes are interconnected. This helps your ability to think critically and solve problems so that you can apply principles from one project or industry to another.
Hacking the Hack
The key is not to try to do as much as Musk does in a week. Instead, choose what your priorities are and then adjust. And as much as possible, try to find a main focus for each day.
For example, this is what a typical week might look like to me:
Monday: Larger project
Tuesday: Workshop prep (tomorrow); workshop delivery or podcast interview (afternoon)
Wednesday: Writing (morning); Meetings (afternoon)
Thursday: Greater client work
Friday: Capture email (tomorrow); Family time (afternoon)
I prefer to spend Mondays on my biggest and most important project. This gives me a chance to work my head down with focused concentration, without distractions from others. (I try my best to avoid meetings on Mondays, making that day the most productive.)
In addition, I usually plan for each day morning as a time of silence. This allows me to use my primary brainpower for creative work. If I need to talk or have a meeting, I try to schedule these in the afternoon.
I then try to divide my other responsibilities then:
Tuesdays are for collaboration, such as trainings, workshops or podcasts.
Wednesday afternoons are for general meetings.
Thursdays are reserved for my largest client.
And while I respond to important emails throughout the week, on Friday morning I use to capture emails that have gone off my radar. This plan allows me to take off Friday afternoon, when it is challenging to be productive anyway. Then I focus on what is most important to me – my family.
You may not have multiple companies operating like Elon Musk, but I bet you feel you do. If so, take a page out of Musk's book and use the weekdays to help you stay organized and focused.
Doing it changed my life, and it could change yours too.