How CEOs Like Elon Musk Stay Productive All Day

Most people know that CEO's like Tesla's Elon Musk have crazy-long workweeks. Musk himself reported that he often works 100 hours a week (source) like many other business owners also.

Knowing that, it's hard to believe how such hard-working business owners can still focus on growing their business without getting sucked up into the overwhelming mass of daily demands that are often unimportant.

Still - as everyone can see - Musk and many other business owners with workweeks like that provide their business with massive results in short amounts of time - and this is not by accident...

There must be strategies that give them one thing: time to focus on on the things that make their business survive, grow and thrive. 


While this is in my opinion the most beautiful thing to do as a business owner, it's actually not that easy: Long workweeks do not only apply to people like Elon Musk or Tim Cook or others - as you might experience yourself - the average workweek of a business owner is in general longer than that of an employee.

Studies show that the average business owner works approx. 60 hours, having 10-11 hour workdays and adding an average of approx. 6 hours on weekends. But I don't have to tell you, do I?

What That Means for Us as Business Owners

What I want to tell you with this: the fact that business owners work longer makes it harder to focus time, resources and especially your energy on growing the business. Every day, there are more and more tasks and demands that step onto our schedule, trying to distract us from our focus.

Furthermore, the bigger the schedule gets and consequently the longer the work - the bigger the likelihood of becoming exhausted and getting poor results from our work.

However, all the wildly successful business owners like Musk & Co. know how to deal with all those challenges effectively. And since they are in the end normal humans and normal business owners just like us - we can do so too.

I found the following 3 strategies to be the key that makes the work of people like Elon Musk, Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg etc. so productive:

1st: Review & Strip Out

Elon Musk emphasized that he's always reviewing his work processes and strips out stuff that he doesn't need (source). That means, he always tries to improve his work process by analyzing what brought good results and what didn't and what to do about it.

Knowing that, you know exactly what works for you and what brings you good results in the time you have. Consequently, you can eliminate everything on your schedule that brings you too little results for the time and energy it consumes.

The goal of a process like that should always be the following: focus the maximum amount of your resources on the work that brings you most results. Makes sense, right? The business owner focusing only on the high-leverage stuff will outwork the business owner who drowns in his demands and is only putting out fires all day long without producing quality results.

That finally requires you to get rid of anything else, unclutter your schedule from everything that's minor and prioritize your most important work rigidly.

For finding your number one priority of the day, you could ask yourself: "If I could get done only ONE thing today - what should I do to come closest to my goals?" The task you find as an answer to this question is your most important task and should therefore be your #1 priority.

However, when your schedule is clean and you're continously reviewing and improving, it's still not a given that you get massive results from your work like Elon & Co. do.

The second metric which determines your productivity is:

2nd: Mental Performance

THE key factor that determines whether or not someone gets stuff done is his or her mental performance.

Your mental performance directly depends on your mental energy and (important!) how you use it:

See, as business owners we have to make a lot of decisions every day. Decisions that shape the future of our business and determine how successful it is and becomes.

These decisions range from small decisions like "Which tasks am I going to finish today?" to big and guiding decisions like "Which kind of product will be launched next?".

No matter how big or small these decisions are, EVERY SINGLE DECISION you make costs you mental energy. Every single one (source).

That means: the more decisions you make, the more energy you use up. The problem: your mental energy in a day is finite.

Consequently, the more decisions you have to make (which is over time becoming more and more as more demands are placed on us), the more mental energy you need. If you use up too much, your mental energy will be too low to make good decisions - from that point on everything you do has way worse quality and therefore provides your business with worse and less results.

Plus, at the end of the day you also want to have mental energy left to focus on finsihing the tasks you have on your agenda.

To do this, there are

3 Ways to Keep Your Mental Performance High

  1. Have more mental energy
  2. Invest it in less things
  3. Invest it more efficiently in the things you have to invest it in

That's e.g. by the way the reason people like Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates wear the same kind of clothes every single day: They don't have to make the decision what to wear and therefore save mental energy for the important decisions they have to make - they simply invest their mental energy in less things.

A simple way to achieve way 3 (investing your mental energy in less things) is basically covered if you're reviewing and continously removing redundant stuff from your schedule and agenda as I told you already.

An easy way to get more mental energy is more or less common sense - still lots of people don't do it or don't do it right: having a workout routine and a good nutrition in place.

Almost every big CEO works out daily - even people like Elon Musk with 100-hour-workweeks do. Many CEOs - e.g. Ursula Burns (CEO of Xerox) - according to Business Insider - also even have a personal trainer... So there's no excuse not to take care of such things. 

Richard Branson "working out" - Picture Source

Finally, you still need to make sure that 1) when you consider a task to be approached and 2) you have a good level of mental energy you 3) need to invest that energy efficiently.

You can have the best work process in place and a lot of mental energy, but it won't work if you're wasting your energy and quickly use it all up. As you see, every one of those steps won't work well without the other.

There's one vital threat to the energy-efficiency of your work:


In today's world, there are more and more distractions trying to steal our attention, and every day it's becoming more. As business owner with a lot of responsibilities and a lot of different projects on the agenda, there's even more likelihood of distraction.

The bigger the business gets, the more distractions. Think of a business like Tesla, Microsoft or Apple with tens of thousands of employees and dozens of projects and hundreds of problems- and you have to manage that.

You'll go under if you're not able to deal with all the possible distractions every day - especially when your business is growing and you want it to go on growing. People like Elon Musk, Bill Gates & Co. manage to stay away from distractions... and that's why they're still successful.

The reason why it's vital to avoid them: distractions are an even bigger threat to productivity than they appear to be on first sight. They're not only annoying and disturb our concentration, they have some more extremely undesirable effects...

External Stimuli

The shift of focus that happens every single time we experience a distraction is a huge threat.

Every time the focus shifts - even in the slightest way, even if you're just hearing a notification without reacting to it - our brain interprets what just happened.

It is wired to do so, so it does that automatically. So what happens is: every time something in your environment changes, your brain gains context to understand where that change comes from and what it means.

And the problem is: this costs you mental energy every single time!

I want to really drive this home for you, so think about it: every single stimulus drains your mental energy... And as an effect every single time, you're less able to make good decisions and are more likely to be worn out early without having produced results.

And do you know what? This is still not everything that distractions do to us!


Every time, we unwillingly or willingly change our focus in reaction to a distraction, it takes 25 minutes to re-focus again on the stuff we originally intended to do (according to Lifehacker).

This is a huge time thief: if you're able to sustain your focus and work concentrated on your tasks, you'll get them done fast and have lots of time left to focus on growing your business... If not, you'll waste 25 minutes for slow and poor work every time your attention shifts and you get done nothing.

And those are finally the reasons that every successful business owner rigorously protects his attention and makes sure that he's only so accessible that he's not distracted all the time... And that's why you should too.

If you're now thinking "oh man that's a lot of stuff to consider" then let me tell you: just relax, this article will always be here for you so you can access it again. Because I also have one more thing for you that super-successful business owners do:

3rd: Wake Up Early

In another article of Business Insider I found that the wake up time of nearly all the big CEOs (Tim Cook, Richard Branson, etc.) is before 6 am, sometimes even before 5 am.

And this is not (only) because they have more time in the day to work though. There are also several huge and major benefits to waking up early:

Mental Energy is Higher Earlier in the Morning

Yes it's true. You're more alert, your brain is more energetic and you're more focused early in the morning.

This comes down to the concept of circadian rhythms. They work like the following:

Your body pulses between spending energy and recovering energy. That means there are phases (usually ~90 minutes long) where you change between high energy to use (spending) and low energy to use (recovery). 

And it's a naturally given that the first phase after waking up (the biggest recovery you can get) is a phase for spending energy.

Since humans normally wake up when the sun rises - which is usually quite early in the morning - the first big energy spending phase is also early in the morning.

This gives everyone who rises early the advantage of higher alertness and therefore the ability to get things done faster and more efficiently.

Now that you know that, let's come to the second advantage of waking up early:

Less Distractions

The earlier the hour, the less distractions occur.

This makes totally sense because less people are awake and less people can interrupt you or make a noise etc.

That gives you quiet, focused and undistracted alone-time for making huge things happen while everyone else is still dreaming. Plus, in the course of the day, you'll still have more mental energy left because less distractions occurred and drained it.

And last but not least, when you wake up early, you end up with more in the afternoon for other things that are meaningful to you like family, down-time etc.


So in a nutshell the 3 ways we talked about that every business owner can implement to take his game to the next level are

  1. Review & strip out
  2. Take care of your mental energy
  3. Get up early

These are proven by a lot of highly successful CEOs and business owners, giving them more time to focus on making their businesses thrive.

No matter how big or small your business is, this always helps to make it bigger and more fulfilling. 

About the Author

Maurice Leibinn is the creator of Productive Energy Management – a method that helps people get a maximum amount of results in a minimum of time while sustaining their energy and avoiding any kind of overwhelm.
He is a productivity Coach serving ​serving ​overworked entrepreneurs and​ professionalsRead more...

Thumbnail Picture Source: File photo: 89th Academy Awards - Oscars Vanity Fair Party - Beverly Hills, California, U.S. - 26/02/17 Elon Musk. (REUTERS/Danny Moloshok)