Leadership

Elon Musk and Jeff Weiner both say this is what they need to be creative

Elon Musk, co-founder and chief executive officer of Tesla Inc.
Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Elon Musk, co-founder and chief executive officer of Tesla Inc.

When Elon Musk isn't launching SpaceX rocket ships or pulling all-nighters at the Tesla factory, the business mogul has a simple routine for coming up with new ideas: spending stretches of time letting his mind wander.

"Need to have long uninterrupted times to think. Can't be creative otherwise," Musk wrote in a tweet on Tuesday.

An article on the job search site Ladders asserts that Musk manages to get everything done by blocking out his day in five-minute intervals, but the Tesla CEO disputes the claim: "I definitely don't do this 5 minute thing," he wrote, because it would interfere with his ability to come up with new ideas.

Musk has prioritized time to reflect for decades now. When he was a kid, his mother Maye says, Elon ignored people and zoned out so often that his parents and doctors ordered tests to check if he was deaf. She eventually got used to the habit. "He goes into his brain and then you just see he is in another world. He still does that," Maye recalls in Ashlee Vance's book, "Elon Musk." "Now I just leave him be because I know he is designing a new rocket or something."

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson also advocate for giving yourself stretches of uninterrupted time.

For years, Weiner has found that scheduling time every day to do nothing is crucial for him to be efficient. Each day's calendar includes 30- to 90-minute blocks of time that allow him to "process what was going on" around him and "just think."

"At first, these buffers felt like indulgences. I could have been using the time to catch up on meetings I had pushed out or said 'no' to," Weiner writes in a LinkedIn post. "But over time I realized not only were these breaks important, they were absolutely necessary in order for me to do my job."

"Use that buffer time to think big, catch up on the latest industry news, get out from under that pile of unread emails, or just take a walk," Weiner suggests. "The buffer is the best investment you can make in yourself and the single most important productivity tool I use."

Branson agrees: "Open your calendar and schedule time just to dream." Far too many people get weighed down in doing and don't take the time to think and feel, Branson writes on his blog.

By scheduling time to think freely — whether it's an hour or an entire a day — "you'll be able to see the bigger picture much easier," Branson says.

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