Elon Musk Describes His Work Day at SXSW 2018

It's more relaxed than you think.

It’s hard to imagine the kind of schedule Elon Musk has to balance, overseeing Tesla, SpaceX, successful rocket launches, and building Martian colonies, but somehow he makes time to practice his dance moves.

What’s his secret? While chatting with drinking buddy Jonathan Nolan, the co-creator of the HBO show Westworld, Musk reflected on how the key to successful time management is delegation according to people’s strengths.

“At SpaceX, almost all of my time is spent on engineering and design. Probably 80-90 percent,” he said. “And then Gwynne Shotwell, President and Chief Operating Officer, takes care of the business operations of the company, which is what allows me to do that.”

By passing along key responsibilities to people better equipped to tackle them, as Shotwell is with company operations, Musk is able to focus on the tasks that he’s best suited for and better prioritize his time. Musk’s strategies for SpaceX are thanks in part to his own sense of impatience.

“I just kept wondering why we weren’t sending people to Mars, why we’re not making progress to sending people to Mars, why we didn’t have a base on the moon,” he said. “Where were the space hotels that were promised [in the movies]? It wasn’t happening, year after year.”

At his Q&A on Sunday at SXSW, Musk offered a lens into his work approach, which sounded very linnear. He tries to ensure that people on his team work to their individual strengths, which frees up time for everyone. The audience seemed to be pleasantly surprised with Musk’s relaxed approach to managing companies.

“How does the business plan work?” asked Nolan.

“I don’t really have a business plan,” Musk responded, to immediate laughter.

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