Timeboxing: Elon Musk’s Time Management Method


It is no secret that Elon Musk has an insane work schedule working more than double the hours of the
average full-time worker. – And you know now I’m
kinda in the 80 to 90, which is more manageable but you know that if you divide
that by two it’s only like you know maybe 45 hours per
company which is not much if your world has a
lot of things going on. – [Interviewer] You’re like a slacker. – (laughs) Yeah. – And that time is split
between many different projects, most of it goes to his main
companies Tesla, and Space X. But he also spends time on
things like The Boring Company, and open AI and of course
making flamethrowers. Add to that the fact that according to Ashlee
Vance’s biography on him, he spends four days a week
with his five children. And you’ve got what his
possibly one of the busiest and most hectic daily schedules
of anybody on this planet. Now in contrast to the video
that I did about Ben Franklin just a few months ago with Elon
Musk we don’t have a source that gives us a super granular
look at his daily schedule other than a few tidbits that
he’s revealed in interviews such as the fact that he
spends about 80% of his time on design and engineering despite
what most people might think. – I think most people think I must spend a lot of time with media
or on business-y things but almost all of my time- like 80% of it is spent on engineering and design. – But what we do know
about is the method that he uses to keep his schedule organized and to plan out his day. Musk actually plans out his
day in five minute increments, and has everything pre-planned in advance. This is a technique called time boxing, and it’s actually used
by lots of other people including Bill Gates and Cal Newport. Though Cal calls it time blocking. Essentially time boxing or time blocking if you want to call it
that or heck: time bloxing, I’m not gonna stop ya, is the practice of setting
fixed amount of time for each task that you have to do and integrating those blocks of time into your daily schedule. I use this technique
a lot with my own work and because people like Musk,
Bill Gates, and Cal Newport, and many others find it so useful, today I wanted to break down exactly how you can use time boxing most effectively in your own work. So let’s start with the obvious question, why use this technique? Why time box your schedule? And I know there’s going to
be critics of this technique right off the bat who are going to say scheduling your entire day in advance basically makes you a robot, dude, why would you wanna do that? And I gotta say, number one,
you humans- I mean we humans really give robots a bad rap
sometimes but number two this is kinda looking at it
from the wrong perspective. Yes, scheduling your day in
advance does mean that you’re gonna be adhering to a predetermined plan and that you’re gonna have
less unstructured free time but as you might know, unstructured free time can
sometimes be bad thing. As Parkinson’s Law states, work tends to expand to fill
the time allotted for it. So essentially time boxing
creates a useful limitation that can actually make
you more productive. First and foremost it
takes a lot of the choice out of the moment of what
you’re gonna work on because you are adhering to a plan so
you spend less time figuring out what you’re gonna
do in the first place and number two because you
have a limited amount of time you aren’t going to waste it. You’re gonna be focusing
a lot more intently. And in the case of people
like Musk and Bill Gates, they probably need to use this technique. They’ve got so many commitments, so many balls in the air, that without pre-planning their schedule, and keeping it really really organized, things are bound to
slip through the cracks. Okay so if I’ve got you
convinced lets talk about how to use time boxing and
the simplest way to do it is the way that I like
to do it when I write out my daily plan either on my white board or on a piece of notebook paper and I just estimate the amount of time each task is going to take
so I don’t actually put it on a calendar and give it start
and stop times of the day. I just say this is going
to take me twenty minutes and then I’m going to
move on to the next thing. If you’re somebody like
me who doesn’t have a whole lot of scheduled
fixed commitments that start and stop at specific
times then that can work really really well and
it might also work if you’re in school or you’re an employee and you have like specific
block of time when you already know you’re
gonna be doing things and then you have like
another block of time that’s kinda freed up. And if this method does work well for you, you don’t have to do it on paper because there is an app called 30/30 on the iPhone that I have used several times before. Now I gotta say that I really don’t like the design of this app. the font they chose in
this app is kinda terrible, but it is one of the few
apps that lets you set a specific time you’re
going to work on a task and then kinda like
build a little itinerary of timed tasks that
you can then go through and I used to use this a lot in college when I had a lot of homework
assignments to get through. Now if you are on Android
I don’t believe 30/30 is on the Android platform but there is an app out
there called Do Now. It seems to have a similar function. Now if you are the kinda
person that has a schedule with lots of predetermined
commitments already and have gaps in between
them or you just wanna have more structure in your
life then you actually might find it useful to use a
calendar for your timeboxing. To set specific start and
stop times for your tasks. This is the way that Cal
Newport says he does it in his blog post on the subject. And you’re a student that
has a lot of little gaps of time in between classes, I think this is the way to go for you. Either way if you’re going
to use this technique successfully then the number
one thing you’re gonna need to learn how to do is properly
estimate how long tasks are going to take you to complete and the bad news is that you
and me both are human beings. We both like ingesting organic matter, we both like using our respiratory systems to convert oxygen into carbon dioxide and we are both naturally
bad at estimating how long things are going to take. Did I mention I’m not a robot? We’re all susceptible to what’s
called the planning falacy which describes how human beings tend to make over optimistic
predictions for how long things are going to take. Now there’s actually some research done at the University of Waterloo
in Canada on this phenomenon. Students were asked to make two different types of time predictions. One was a best case
scenario prediction where literally everything went right and the other one was for
the average case scenario, your average every day
run of the mill experience and the researchers found that
predictions for both types of scenarios were virtually identical which showed them that
human beings tend to picture the best case scenario where
literally nothing goes wrong when they’re trying to
predict what’s gonna happen in an average everyday case. So even though you know in
the back of your head that when you try to get to
work on an average day there’s traffic or somebody’s
driving in front of you really slow on their phone, there’s a grandma in front of you. When you predict how long
it’s going to take to work, you picture the scenario where
there’s barely any traffic at all and everything is just perfect. And this cognitive bug
is not very congruent with the successful time
boxing because if you tend to make super over optimistic
predictions for how long each task is going to take
then you are going to end up getting less than half of what you plan to get done actually done. So one way to get better at estimating how long your tasks are
actually going to take is to track your time. The app that I personally use
for this is called Toggle. Which is available both on
computers and mobile devices, and essentially you just tell
it what you’re going to do, you can give it a tag if you want and then you start it and
stop it once you’re done. I found that if you track your
time with an app like this then over time you start to
get a record of how long things actually take and you can start
to see what the discrepancy is between your original
estimations and the actual data. From there you can sorta
start calibrating your brain and make better estimations. Also when you’re sitting
down to plan your day and you’re estimating how
long it’s going to take, it’s gonna be really helpful if you split your bigger tasks into smaller sub-tasks. Not only will this make your
task list more action oriented and clear but it’s also
going to help you with your estimations because it
is always easier to estimate how long a small well defined
task is going to take. Alright so now we have to
deal with what is possibly the most legitimate objection
to time boxing which is, how do you deal with interruptions? How do you deal with things
that you couldn’t plan for, – [Tom] or things that just
pop up and interrupt your work? – Tom, the secret service wants you again. – (sighs) Again? – Well as Dwight D. Eisenhower once said “planning is everything,
plans are nothing.” So when your plans get
interrupted, revise that plan. Cal Newport’s time blocking
blog post actually provides a great example of how to do this. He splits his notebook paper into columns and uses the first column
as his original plan. Then if plans change or if
something gets interrupted during the course of the
day he just revises the plan in the next column and then
continues on from there. He also advises designating
certain blocks of time as what he calls reactionary time. Blocks of time that are
literally setup for dealing with those things that come
up during the course of the day that you didn’t plan for. Now sometimes things are going
to pop up that you have to deal with right now and they
might be in a time block that was planned for something else and in those cases you’re
going to have to roll with the punches but if something
comes up that you can deal with later then a
reactionary time block is the perfect time to take care of it. One thing that I would add
here is don’t be discouraged if you’re unable to follow
your plan to the letter. Life is inherently unpredictable sometimes but that doesn’t mean
that planning out your day is a flawed tactic. No tactic works 100% of the time. Just do your best to adapt
and then at the end of the day analyze your plan and see
if what interrupted it was something that you need
to account for in the future or if it was just a one time thing. And that brings me to my
last but most crucial piece of advice for using this
technique effectively. Avoid the temptation to
over schedule your day. Yes, Elon Musk is putting
in 80-90 hour work weeks, juggling a zillion things at once but number one that dude is a monster and number two if you have
difficult work on your plate that requires a lot of intense
concentration and creativity sometimes that’s all you
can do in a given day. Don’t try to squeeze work like that into a tiny sliver of time in a day that’s already taken up
with errands and admin work. As the authors of the book The Four Disciplines of
Execution pointed out the more you try to do the
less you actually accomplish. So take advantage of the
productivity benefits that come from the
limitations of time boxing but give that difficult creative
work the space it deserves and save that mentally easier work for a concentrated batch day. And while we’re talking about
that more cognitively trivial admin work if you do want
to make that more efficient then one thing you might
want to try is Audible which is the world’s
best place to download and listen to audiobooks. Audiobooks are a big part of my life and they’re a great way
to be more efficient with your time since you
can listen to them while you’re at the gym or while
you’re commuting to school or work or while you’re cooking
while you’re doing laundry. Basically any time you’re
doing something that doesn’t require a whole
lot of attention in itself. Audible has an unmatched library
of audiobooks ranging from the best sellers to lots
of obscure titles so you’re gonna be able to
find and listen to basically anything that’s on your reading list. The membership comes with
credit for one free audiobook every single month and
unused credits roll over from month to month. Also if you don’t like a
book you can exchange it with no questions asked and
if you do happen to cancel all the audiobooks you’ve downloaded are yours to keep forever. So if this sounds good to you, you can get a 30 day free
trial of their service along with a free audiobook
download of your choosing by heading over to Audible.com/Thomas or by texting Thomas to
500-500 on your phone. This month I’m gonna recommend one of my absolute
favorite books of all time which is Bill Bryson’s A Short
History of Nearly Everything, which I own in print and as an audiobook. This is the book that really
did the most to rekindle my interest in science and
I also expanded my appetite for learning in different areas, and beyond that motivational
aspect this is really just one of the best and most
entertaining overviews of science that I’ve ever come across and I think that anyone who
wants to be more well rounded should definitely experience it. So if you wanna start listening
to that book or any other audiobook of your choosing
once again head on over to Audible.com/Thomas or text
Thomas to 500-500 on your phone to start that free trial and get your free audiobook download. Big thanks to Audible
for sponsoring this video and helping to support this
channel and as always guys thank you so much for watching. If you don’t wanna miss future videos definitely get subscribed right there and you can also download
a free copy of my book on how to earn better
grades right over there. You might also want to check
out our latest podcast episode right here which is all about
how to become a tea drinker something that you coffee
addicts should probably learn about or check out one
additional video on this channel by smashing your face
into your phone screen right around here. Thanks for watching and
I’ll see you next week.

100 thoughts on “Timeboxing: Elon Musk’s Time Management Method

  1. Love this video! Time blocking is a great idea for managing your time and staying on schedule. Cheers!

  2. Yessss! Time blocking is my absolute jam. I just did a video on this as I've realized a lot of people can plan it out, but struggle to implement it and keep it going.

  3. A good way for estimating is to guess how long a task will last and adjust it by multiply it by the last digit of pi. 😂

  4. I smashed my head on to that side of the screen and nothing happened. You need your finger if you are going to select anything on your smart phone 🧐

  5. I am dead man, who authorized aids Ebola famine poverty crime war, who was at the bar having sex while being lord follower.

  6. Whoever does this should have a different person (an employee) track it for them and give them tasks. If they work close, it could make planning much less time-consuming.

  7. People saying timeboxing makes them robots… What if they hear those news about robots taking over the world someday?

  8. You started from elon musk to time boxing to toggle to audibles to the breif history of everything.. what exactly are you trying to sell here?

  9. I think this is useful, but not in big teams. I work in a huge open space where we work using agile methodologies, at least we like to think that. At the moment, my team is growing really fast and with junior level. So, at the moment, I have 5 juniors to 1 senior. If each senior timeboxes, they'll never be able to help any of the juniors, they'll just be concentrated on delivering their commitments. How to deal with this situation?

  10. Hey Thomas, I'm sujatha from India, ur video was precise and beautiful well said- Thank you for lovely video

  11. I am doing this to recover from mental hell. Alarm for each block. A few blocks at the end of the day to prepare the next day, selecting items from a growing todo list. What to eat, when to eat etc. we are robots. The question is who writes the software, you or the rest of us for you?

  12. "Time bloxing" adorable portmanteau joke, cute time travel pun, and /r/totallynotrobots humor all in the first few minutes … I fell hard for this channel a while ago, but with every new video, I'm even happier that I did! XD

  13. I time box in school a lot, cause i found out with school I can work at microsoft when I grow up. Or be a astronaut. My time boxing is 5 minutes.

  14. when the Toggl app shows up i yelled. i stan an amazing time tracking app with hella passionate and helpful crew of developers behind it.

  15. The robot jokes were stellar. Hate it when YouTubers try cringe stuff and it just comes off awkward but this was great

  16. TIMEBLOXING- now I can blox myself in? 🤔
    So much of my time in the last few years has been spent on failed community investments and responding to chaos i don't know what it's like to have any kind of routine. I've always been way better with improvisation and attempts to make routines result in them being thrown away so I'm prioritizing what needs to be done, instead of what's at an arbitrary time. Just deciding what's most important and going down the list outside of scheduled events is the best method for me.

  17. Frankly speaking, i dont know whether Elon uses this method, but doing time boxing does help me to clear n structure my day

  18. I would not recommend listening audible while doing other stuff like go shopping or going to the gym. It is proven that makin multiple things lower the Intelligence.
    "Multi-Tasking is a myth". -Bryan Tracy

  19. I just write down everything I need to do/eat in the day and do the easier stuff first. I don't focus much on planning every second of the day. I don't like feeling like a slave. I'm black so…

  20. This is one of the MOST practical and informative videos on the internet about scheduling. Thank you so much for your work putting this together!

  21. ELON MUSK: Tiene derecho a hacer lo que se le de la gana, lo que no quisiera es que termine como Stive Jobs que murió muy joven, de todas formas que Elon Musk haga lo que él quiera , BUENA SUERTE ELON!!!!

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