Elon Musk’s Work Habits & Ethics: What It Takes To Become Highly Successful

Elon Musk’s success is no accident. He is popularly known for his workaholic nature & his work ethic has led to the foundation of many multi-billion-dollar businesses. 

Elon is a visionary man who claims to never give up when it comes to achieving milestones – the success of the Tesla & SpaceX are two great examples.

Working as hard as Elon Musk is not the easiest thing to do & Elon Musk is definitely smarter than the average individual.

He has come a long way to be known amongst the richest men in the World. With a net worth of more than $20 billion – he is estimated to be the wealthiest person on this planet soon (next 6-7 years)

But what exactly are the work ethics that Elon Musk follows, to boost his productivity & to run multiple successful companies?

Whilst the news headlines are bombarding us with Elon Musk, let’s look at some of his work habits & work ethics to sneak peek into his success

6 hours of sleep is enough for Musk

In an interview with Elon Musk on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, Musk stated that he sleeps for 6 hours every night – by necessity, or else his productivity suffers. 

In the interview, Joe Rogan asked Musk how he manages to invest time into different projects he’s leading – primarily SpaceX & Tesla.

Musk replied “I do work a lot. Normally I’d be working until 1 or 2 in the morning”

Elon generally wakes up at 7 AM & he further remarked on his sleeping habits that “I tried sleeping less, but then total productivity decreases,”

Considering the science-backed recommendation, it is important for humans to sleep for at least 8 hours a day.

Even when your priority is to work, it is suggested to sleep as much as you need – for the proper functioning of the brain.

For Elon Musk, 6 hours of sleep is enough to rejuvenate & he further adds “I don’t find myself wanting more sleep”

Elon’s Recommendation on Office Meetings to his employees

Elon Musk holds a different perspective on office meetings. 

According to Musk: 

  • Large meetings are a waste of time & must be done if urgent
  • Frequent meetings should be avoided
  • Feel free to walk off the meeting if it’s not giving you value, it’s not rude

Elon believes that excessive meetings are the blight of big companies & get worse over time. 

He quoted “Please get off all large meetings unless you’re certain they are providing value to the whole audience, in which case keep them very short.”

Musk also says that one should walk off the meeting if you’re not getting any value – it is not rude to leave a meeting, it is rude to make someone stay and waste their time.

In one of his official emails to his employees, he stated”get rid of frequent meetings, unless you are dealing with an extremely urgent matter. Meeting frequency should drop rapidly once the urgent matter is resolved.”

Musk’s Endless Working Hours

Elon Musk gives it all to accomplish his goals – often spending 80+ hours a week in order to get the work done. 

In hard times, his workweek hours can even exceed 120+ hours – which is equivalent to 14 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

In an interview, Musk said

For a while there I was just doing constant 100 hour weeks in order to be the CEO of both Tesla Motors and SpaceX, and that’s definitely worrying.

For a while, it was over 100 hours per week and that’s a very high amount of pain. The difficulty and pain of work hours really increased exponentially. It’s not linear. When the financial crisis hit in 2008/2009, it was just every day, seven days a week, morning till night, and dream about work. It was terrible. Bad dreams.

But now I’m kind of in the 80 to 90 hours per week, which is more manageable. 

80-90 hours of work week – It’s a very tough job to keep up this pace & for most of us, it will end in burnout.

But in order to manage & scale billion-dollar businesses, it becomes important to sustain long working hours – especially if you are the driving force behind the business idea.

When Elon was asked in an interview about the working hours of Tesla employees, he replied: 

Right now, we’re working 6 days a week & some even work 7 days a week. But for many people, working seven days a week is not sustainable. The factory is operational seven days a week but most people we only ask to work six days a week right now and, obviously, we want to get that to a more reasonable number. I think people can sustain a 50-hour work week. I think that’s a good work week. If you’re joining Tesla, you’re joining a company to work hard. We’re not trying to sell you a bill of goods. If you can go work for another company and then maybe you can work a 40-hour work week. But if you work for Tesla, the minimum is really a 50-hour week and there are times when it’ll be 60- to 80-hour weeks. If somebody is hourly, they receive time-and-a-half but if somebody is salary, then we do cash and stock bonuses for going above and beyond the call of duty. So we try to make it fair compensation, but the general understanding is that if you’re at Tesla, you’re choosing to be at the equivalent of Special Forces. There’s the regular Army, and that’s fine, but if you are working at Tesla, you’re choosing to step up your game. And that has pluses and minuses. It’s cool to be Special Forces, but it also means you’re working your ass off. It’s not for everyone.

The working hours of Elon Musk have already been mentioned in the media & it’s certain that he has somehow developed a powerful work ethic. 

Depending on what his priorities are at a given time, he also manages to save the weekends for spending time with his five children.

Entrepreneurs working 80+ hours a week is not unusual, the difference with Musk is that he has the ability to stretch it to 120+ since he needs to divide this time into two big companies – SpaceX & Tesla.

Musk Views on Communication at Work

Elon Musk believes that communication must travel the shortest path necessary to get the work done.

In his own words,

Communication should travel via the shortest path necessary to get the job done, not through the ‘chain of command,.

Any manager who attempts to enforce chain of command communication will soon find themselves working elsewhere.

In simple words, good & effective communication takes place when there is a free flow of information & interaction between all levels & departments in an organization.

Musk further quoted that “It must be ok for people to talk directly and just make the right thing happen”

Another reflection is his work ethic shows that he discourage the use of acronyms or buzzwords while comminicating

In his own words,

Don’t use acronyms or nonsense words for objects, software or processes at Tesla. In general, anything that requires an explanation inhibits communication. We don’t want people to have to memorize a glossary just to function at Tesla.


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