Musk wakes up each morning at around 7 am. He says he likes getting around six to six-and-a-half hours of sleep per night. Sleeping in is not an option for him, saying it affects his performance more than if he sleeps less.
After getting up, he showers, dresses, and enjoys a morning cup of coffee. However, he says he is usually in such a rush that he skips breakfast most days. On the days he does eat breakfast, he likes an omelet.
In a Reddit AMA he mentioned that showering is the most important part of his day. He says that he doesn’t feel in the right headspace without his shower, and it’s a critical part of waking up and preparing him to face the challenges of the day.
Next, he sends his kids off to school and drives to work.
Musk claims he regularly works 80 to 100 hour workweeks, with most of his skillset being focused on design and engineering work. 90% of his time at SpaceX involves design work, and it takes up 60% of his day at Tesla.
He’s an efficient multi-tasker who doesn’t attend to emails and forgoes most of his phone calls. Mondays and Fridays are spent at SpaceX in Los Angeles or Boca Chica and the rest of the week at Tesla in the San Francisco Bay Area.
This working schedule gives Elon 42 hours per week at Tesla and 40 hours at SpaceX.
Since he is so busy — and by his own confession — he doesn’t pay as much attention to his nutrition as he should. If Musk does take lunch, he’ll usually wolf it down during an afternoon meeting.
He has a reputation for being ruthlessly efficient in the workspace, and he demands the same of his employees. His time in the afternoon involves meetings and working on design projects. He is known to leave meetings abruptly if he thinks his time is being wasted and actively discourages unnecessary meetings.
He often gets into a flow state where hours pass by without him noticing and he relies on his stringent scheduling to keep him on track with his priorities.
In 2018, a New York Times profile on Musk said he was regularly working up to 120 hours a week . Since the birth of his child “X Æ A-12” (yes, that’s the kid’s name), Musk decided to scale back on his hours to get more quality time with Grimes and his kids.
As a result of his hectic schedule during the day, he consumes most of his calories at night. He uses business dinners to satisfy his hunger, and he admits to eating too much.
Musk has an affection for Diet Coke, claiming that the beverage contains “some infernal ingredient”. When Musk does eat, he enjoys French food and barbeque. He also enjoys whiskey or wine from time-to-time.
He returns from work at around 10 pm each night — long after the younger kids are in bed — then spends the next few hours reading, watching anime (Evangelion and Death Note), and talking with Grimes. After a busy day, he goes to sleep at 1 am.
Elon Musk’s daily work schedule
In a 2016 interview with Y Combinator, Musk described an example day in his life juggling Tesla and SpaceX:
Gwynne Shotwell is Chief Operating Officer. She kind of manages legal finance sales and kind of general business activity and then my time is almost entirely with the engineering team working on improving the Falcon 9 and the Dragon spacecraft and developing the Mars colonial architecture. And then at Tesla, it’s working on the Model 3 and some in the design studio typically half a day a week dealing with aesthetics and look and feel things. And then most of the rest of the week is just going through engineering of the car itself as well as the engineering of the factory because the biggest epiphany I’ve had this year is that what really matters is the machine that builds the machine the factory and that is at least towards a magnitude harder than the vehicle itself.ELON MUSK : HOW TO BUILD THE FUTURE | Y COMBINATOR
When it comes to productivity for himself and employees, Musk is well-known for his ruthless efficiency. In a 2018 email sent out to Tesla employees, Musk outlined some of his “recommendations” for conducting efficient meetings:
- Excessive meetings are the blight of big companies and almost always get worse over time. Please get rid of all large meetings, unless you’re certain they are providing value to the whole audience, in which case keep them very short.
- Also 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.
- Walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it is obvious you aren’t adding value. It is not rude to leave, it is rude to make someone stay and waste their time.
In the same email, Musk also told employees to avoid using “acronyms or nonsense words for objects, software or processes at Tesla” and encouraged the “free flow of information between all levels,” no matter the employee’s role or department.
While Musk has seemingly embraced his workaholic habits and long hours, everyone has a breaking point, and in 2018, it appeared that breaking point was getting dangerously close for him. In a New York Times profile, Musk detailed work weeks of up to 120 hours, “There were times when I didn’t leave the factory for three or four days — days when I didn’t go outside,” he said. “This has really come at the expense of seeing my kids. And seeing friends.”
In a Recode Decode inteview with Kara Swisher, Musk talked about the difficult times in more detail, “I would just sort of sleep for a few hours, work, sleep for a few hours, work, seven days a week. Some of those days must have been 120 hours, or something nutty.” Fortunately for Musk, the days of 120 hour workweeks are over (for now), and he’s back to 80 or 90 hours, which he says is “pretty sustainable.”
More recently, it seems that Musk is in a much better place, work-life balance-wise. In a conversation with Maureen Dowd for The New York Times, he spoke about spending time with his partner, Grimes, catching up on anime (Death Note and Evangelion) and listening to history audiobooks and podcasts.
When asked about how he managed to find time to spend with his children, given his immense working hours, Musk replied, “Right now there’s not much I can do. Grimes has a much bigger role than me right now. When the kid gets older, there will be more of a role for me.”
“I think just doing what I’ve done with my other kids. If I have a trip for Tesla to China, for example, I’ll bring the kids with me and we’ll go see the Great Wall or we took the bullet train from Beijing to Xian and saw the Terracotta Warriors.”