time blocking with laptop

Elon Musk’s 5-minute rule: Block your time like Tesla’s CEO

Elon Musk is possibly the busiest man on earth right now.

The billionaire founder and CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, spends up to 100 hours a week on both companies — whilst plotting to transport humans to mars and chowing down lunch meals within 5 minutes, before getting back to his work. 

Musk is also a family man who spends up to four days each week with his five children. He also finds time for regular exercise, two times a week, as well as his personal hobbies. How can he do everything? Because of Elon Musk’s 5-minute rule time management method.

How does a mere human being manage their time so effectively on such a busy, hectic schedule?

Even though many people point to Elon Musks’ ‘superhuman’ ability to focus without distractions, or his freakish level of genius. But, there’s a better explanation for his effective time management – time blocking.

Time blocking is a time management method used by highly successful CEOs, entrepreneurs and productivity experts, including Bill Gates and Cal Newport.

But what is time blocking and how does it work? And how can you use it to help improve your productivity? Let’s find out!

What is Elon Musk 5 minute rule?

Elon Musk 5 minute rule is one of the best time management techniques. It makes you divide your day into blocks of time. Each block is dedicated to accomplishing one or more tasks, allowing you to have a concrete schedule that lays out what you will work on and when.

From the second Elon Musk’s head lifts off his bedroom pillow at 7 a.m., his day has already been pre-planned in advance. There is no room for random interruptions — there are no blocks of time left unscheduled. In conclusion, no time wasters

By using the time blocking method, Musk intentionally plans his day out in five-minute increments or ‘time blocks.’ 

Each time block is assigned to a specific task or activity. For example, Musk would use the time blocking method when responding to overdue emails, eating meals, or timing work meetings.

Time management expert, Kevin Kruse, also suggests through research in his book, 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management (audiobook), that different top performers in various fields, organize their day through time blocks instead of to-do lists. 

Time blocking forces you to fill up free time with pre-commitments and a plan of action. Doing so prevents you from wasting precious time on a task that could be finished quicker. That’s why time blocking is a well-known recommended time-saving tip.

Another benefit of time blocking is that it reduces the number of choices you would have to make on any given day — preserving your willpower to tackle your most important tasks. 

Elon Musk’s ‘5 Minute Rule’ seems simple, but you may struggle a bit to implement it. The main reason for this is that you must plan your next day for the tasks you want to do, but by sitting in 5-5-minute blocks.

Here are some tips and tricks on how to do it.

How to use the Elon Musk 5-minute rule in 3 steps

Here are 3 simple and easy steps to quickly apply the time blocking method.

1. List

Divide a piece of ruled paper into two columns. On the left column allocate every two lines to each hour or 5-minute block of the day (whichever you prefer).

2. Estimate and plan

Estimate the amount of time each task is going to take to complete, then write these tasks on the left column with their respective time blocks. Optional: add commentary notes in the corresponding right column.

3. Consider the unexpected

Add buffer times or extra room around each time block to allow for adjustments or unexpected activities.

The image below is a quick reference to the three steps above.

How to make the best of Elon Musk 5 minute rule?

  1. Spend at least 10 minutes filling your time blocks. Ideally, this should be done the day before your plans are due.
  2. Accurately estimate how long it takes to complete a given task. When we’re overly optimistic about how long a given task will take to complete, we’ll fail to follow through on what we set out to do. This bias (also known as the ‘planning fallacy’) can be avoided if you keep a timed record of your tasks. To do that, you can use a time tracking app, for example.
  3. Break down big tasks into small chunks. If you have big tasks that require a long period to finish, break these down into small sub-tasks and slot them into your daily time blocks.
  4. Plan for unexpected interruptions. Use the right column of the piece of paper, to revise your original time blocks, should disruptions pop up during the day. Time blocking for ‘reactive’ work will help you avoid overwhelm, reduce stress and stay focused throughout the day.

Elon Musk’s 5 minute rule template

Do you think that this technique might be the perfect solution for you? Do you want to try but you don’t want to spend your time creating a template? Look no further!

We’ve got your back and we prepared a Google Sheets template that will save you time. If you’re looking for a Microsoft Excel, PDF, or Numbers template, you’ll be able to download it and adapt it to your needs.

Download Elon Musk’s 5-minute rule template

What are the benefits of Elon Musk 5 minute schedule?

Once you’ve nailed the whole time-blocking thing, some longer-term benefits will emerge. 

For instance, tasks will be completed faster and more precisely, since you’re able to focus completely on your assignments. Instead of having to allocate your energy across multiple tasks, you can dive deeply into the most important ones.

There are also many other benefits of this method of time management:

  • Time blocking gives you an opportunity to better manage your priorities at work and gives you extra peace of mind. This will allow you to organize your schedule more realistically and will force you to make decisions over what matters most.
  • Time blocking is a major key to eliminating procrastination in your daily routine. Since you’ll have a given time to complete your tasks, you won’t have the opportunity to check social media, be in wasteful meetings, and lose any more time with any time wasters.
  • Time blocking also helps you manage and lead meetings. As we all know, meetings can be extremely dreadful and make you waste tons of time. If you’ve blocked out time for meetings, you won’t feel bad for turning down invitations if the meetings are not on your block. By doing this, you’ll avoid a lot of unproductive meetings.
  • Time blocking for sure helps you be more efficient in organizing the tasks on your to-do list. Once you’ve grouped similar tasks together in a time block, it will allow you to work faster and more efficiently. Otherwise, you would find yourself wasting time switching between dissimilar tasks and being less productive.
  • Time blocking helps you gain a greater understanding of how long your tasks take to be completed. This will help with future scheduling and organization.

Conclusion

To sum up, we all have the same 24 hours on any given day. The difference between high performers who get a lot of stuff done, like Elon Musk, versus those who don’t, isn’t intellect, skill, or genetics. It’s the combination of a mindset that values time and the use of an effective time management method, like time blocking.

It’s never too late to start managing your time! Let’s face it. With our busy lives and over-full calendars, all the extra help we can get is appreciated. The better you can manage your calendar, the better you can manage your life. 

Time blocking is a simple, flexible, and effective way to help you to manage your time better, even when your life is hectic. Most importantly, time blocking helps us to take control of our time — which, once lost, we can never get back.

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Footnotes

  1. Parkinson’s law states that work tends to expand to fill the time allotted for it. By restricting time, the task gets done quicker.
  2. Information on Elon Musk was found at various sources. These include: Musk’s biography by Vance and this interview.
  3. Credit to Cal Newport for some ideas on the time blocking concept.
  4. Time blocking image credit to Tony Wolski.