How Titans Manage Time

How Titans Manage Time: Elon Musk and The 100-Hour Work Week

By Hector on 28 February 2017

In the following video, Elon Musk gives a harsh and quantitative lesson on the power of work ethic.

You Have to Work. Period.

The last article in this series focused on Warren Buffett’s advocacy for free time doing “nothing,” except for thinking and problem solving free of distraction. While this is true, I made it clear that not only should this time actually be dedicated to rigorous thinking and/or meditation, but that you do need to work hard.
What does this mean, precisely?
“If other people are putting in 40 hour work weeks and you’re putting in 100 hour work weeks. Even if you’re doing the same thing…you know you will achieve in 4 months what it takes them a year to achieve.”
Firstly, ignore the slight math error, because if that’s your focus, remember that you aren’t the inspiration for Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Tony Stark.
At least not yet…but you could be.

The Fundamentals of Work Ethic

Now, there are two important elements here:
1. You must create your product or service, and build your business for this product or service
2. You have competition

Let’s start with the main element.
If you want to sell a book, you need to write the book. Then you either need to have it accepted by a publishing company, or publish it yourself. If you take the latter course, you need to find money to pay for the physical publishing (or the electronic publishing. A type-setter, a graphic designer, and a website developer for your book’s site, if you want to avoid giving Amazon or any other distributor a cut.
If you are selling a service, be it consultation or freelance programming, for instance, you need find jobs through sites like Upwork or Fiverr, or through people you know who need work – socializing and applying takes time. Then, you need to carve out the time to do the work.
If you are building a physical business, you need to rent or buy a space, decorate it, hire employees, register your business, actually be there most of the time to show the employees how you want things done and make sure they listen, all while budgeting to ensure the business stays alive.
A business-owner friend of mine explained to me that it’s not so much the actual building of products that really takes your time. Of course, that takes time, but that’s expected, it’s planned-for-time.
What isn’t always planned for are the contingencies and minutiae.

Random Task Generator

What happens when your site goes down? You may spend an entire work day, eight or nine hours, with your hosting site’s customer service department, because a routing table crashed. Or maybe you got DDoS’d and you need clean up all of the entries on your site.
With a physical business, what happens when a shipment is late, but your order was supposed to go out today? Do you front the money to buy it all at a local store, at a much higher price than the bulk order price you paid for earlier? If you don’t have the capital or the credit, maybe you have to tell the customer that you can’t deliver today. This might hurt your reputation with them; they might cancel the deal, because you’re irresponsible; even worse, they might tell others to not do business with you.
Hell, you might even find yourself sending and trading emails for six hours in one day and get no “real” work done. Now you need to choose between going to grab those drinks with a friend, eating dinner, or spending time with your family, or continuing to work.
What is most difficult about working for yourself or building a business, is that there isn’t always a clear objective. For a clock-in job, you know that within these 8 hours you’re clocked in, you have a specific range of tasks that you might have to do, and you know how much you’re going to get paid. It’s not only safe, but it’s discrete and clear.
With a business or product, there’s no time-table, unless you set one for yourself or someone else is, like a publisher telling you that your book’s first draft needs to be finished in three months.
And whether it sounds enjoyable or not, working 100 hours a week might not only be beneficial, it might be necessary. You have ten tasks today, with potentially ten more that will creep up on you, but you only have 24 hours. How much of it is for work, and how much of it is for you?
The choice is yours, but you still only have 24 hours in a day, 168 hours in a week, 672 hours in a month, and 8,064 hours in a year.
And how many years are left in your life? You don’t know. How much of that time you use for your dream is up to you. Maybe it’s worth to reconsider your work ethic?

If You’re Not at the Top, The Competition is Working Harder Than You

Along with pointing out that you can finish tasks faster with 100-hour work weeks, is the point that you can also do more, relatively faster, than your competition, especially if they’re only working 40 hours a week.
No matter what field you’re in, you have competition. Even if you have a totally unique product, like Uber, for instance, you’re still in the transportation market. The competition for Uber were the taxis, who obviously got lazy and never adapted with the times (harsh, but true), and the metro-systems, which really have no room to grow except for in speed and energy-efficiency (at least right now). What they did in their time was create something that adapted with the times by taking advantage of a technology almost everyone has now – a smartphone with an internet connection.
They didn’t get there by working 40 hours a week. Furthermore, they came up with a great idea.
You can work 100-hours a week, but work on a very lame and not lucrative idea, and have it go nowhere.
But, the advantage of working 100 hours a week, is that the increased work time will allow more time for you to eventually say “you know what, this isn’t working; what do I do now?” And when you finally ask that question, if you were heading in the wrong direction, you might find that next billion-dollar idea before your competition does.

You have competition. That is certain. And not everyone can win every competition.

Question is: Do you want to win? – Get started today for free.