You're Managing Your Time All Wrong
It's no surprise Elon Musk is an extremist when it comes to time management. He's a personal idol and role model of mine. His success, passion, and discipline are enviable, but could he be managing his time all wrong? Let me roll that back. Could he, we, be doing it better?
I think so.
Before we dive into how I manage my time, let's dive into the Elon Method.
Elon Musk divides his day into five-minute increments, scheduling every aspect of his 100-hour work-weeks by parsing each hour into 12 parts. Musk has said he is such a workaholic he can only sleep 5 hours (60 units) on a good night, and that's with a Xanax. At the height of the Tesla production difficulties, Musk slept at his desk in the factory less than three hours a day.
I don't know about you, but this all sounds a little bit extreme. Even so, some of the wealthiest, most successful people schedule all of their time this way. Bill Gates? He's on the record supporting the five-minute method too.
Like most of you, I spent a lot of time running my life similarly. I broke my day into quarter and half-hours, scheduling most aspects of my day. Even casual hangouts with my friends. There's something about looking at a well-considered calendar that makes one feel accomplished.
At the end of the week, however, all I felt was exhausted. Drained. Sapped of all life and personality with no energy left over to do much of importance. Is there really a point to working this hard if you don't have any energy to do things with friends, go see a movie, or spend your hard-earned money?
The conclusion I came to was pretty obvious. No.
There had to be a way to build a better mousetrap. It's not like we can live in a calendar-free world of sugarplums and bunnies.
Ultimately, I decided to create a values-based schedule, not a time-based one. What does that even mean, anyway?
Instead of feeling beholden to a never-ending grid of endless tasks and meetings, and as an alternative to feeling drained every single day, I needed a way of scheduling my time that empowered me and made me feel excited about the work I was doing. Time is precious, fleeting, and limited: every single minute dedicated to a project, task, or meeting should mean something.
Here's how it works: have a conversation with yourself and figure out what really matters to you.
If one of your core values is acting as a servant leader to lift others up, schedule your time (and energy) based on that value. Make a point of scheduling 30-minute mentorships during your workday.
If one of your core values is respecting your relationships and honoring clients, schedule your time to best serve your clients. Listen to what they need. Strive to complete projects on time, and if you are running behind on a project or simply stuck in traffic, make a point of scheduling a call or email to communicate why.
Life happens and people are remarkably understanding. When your deadlines feel more like the Grim Reaper and less like an opportunity to make someone smile, it's time to schedule based on your values.
If you value longterm financial security or your mental health, make a point of having highly effective meetings, or scheduling self care all for you and your loved ones. Schedule time to turn off the phone and schedule a time to turn it back on.
One of the best aspects of a values-based schedule is this: multiple values can be true at the same time. It's possible to value being a servant leader AND value your mental health. Schedule your time with boundaries in mind. Perhaps you stop answering emails at midnight. Perhaps you make a point of condensing your work day by having more focused meetings. It all comes down to what you value.
Finally, if your values are misaligned, that will become apparent very quickly using a values-based scheduling system. If you're feeling run down, angry, or anxious all the time, it's time to examine your schedule and look within. Something is out of place. Only you can fix it.
Implementing values-based scheuling will make you a more effective leader, and help you feel more satisfied in the work you do. When you are guided by purpose, not stuck on a treadmill, it shows in your character and the work you do. The art you make. The relationships you nurture. Your quality of life. I double dare you to try it on for size. If it doesn't fit just right, look inside and figure out why.