Themed days - The productivity secret of Elon Musk
Have you ever wondered how Elon Musk manages two billion-dollar companies at once? Well, he follows a carefully planned schedule, strictly dividing his time between them and his other activities in each working week.
He works at SpaceX on Monday and Tuesday, then at Tesla on Wednesday and Thursday returning to SpaceX on Friday.
He basically applies a simplified version of the “themed days” concept to his schedule. So, what are themed days?
Themed days are strategically planned days in your
calendar which are completely dedicated to one single thing. It can be
working on a certain goal in your life, a personal or professional project, or
in Elon’s case, working for one of the companies in your portfolio.
It’s easy to employ the themed days concept. You open your calendar, select one whole day, and schedule it for the selected “theme”.
Themed days are especially useful when you want to make greater progress in a short amount of time, and can be utlilized for many different reasons, such as:
- Advancing a project
- Learning new skills
- Planning and analyzing
- Brainstorming ideas
- Reading and researching
- Fixing your relationship(s)
- Building a personal brand
- Coding etc.
Themed days are also beneficial when you have a side project or hustle outside of your primary occupation.
Let’s say you want to learn to code; It’s better to dedicate one full day to learning how to do so than to struggle with learning for an hour after every working day, when you’re already completely exhausted and frustrated.
Themed days with no interruptions will skyrocket your productivity
Probably the most useful and powerful piece of productivity advice is to keep certain hours in your schedule with zero interruptions. It can even be a whole day.
“No-interruptions” days are simply days in your working week with no meetings, no email, no socializing or other distractions of any kind. It’s only you, working on the most important task in a flow with laser focus.
When you have a no-interruptions day, you set an auto responder on your email, turn off your phones, put a “Do not disturb” sign on your office door and use every other possible preventive measure available to make sure you aren’t distracted in any way, so as to be able to create value in a godlike state and get the really important tasks done.
Combining themed days with no-interruption days can do magic for your productivity and progress your goals.
The combination of the two means that you can regularly dedicate a day in the week to an important goal in your life.
Why are themed days so effective?
Let’s do very simple math, just to show the power of themed days. For example, let’s say you want to learn Photoshop. Every day after work, when you’re already exhausted, you take one hour to learn the skill.
In one month, you will have dedicated approximately 20 hours to learning and will most likely struggle with discipline and concentration.
But what if you schedule two themed days in a row, let’s say Friday and Saturday, and you devote 10 focused hours to learning Photoshop on both days? You would achieve in two days what you would otherwise achieve in one month.
And there’s another benefit: I bet if you decide to learn for an hour a day after work, there are days when you’re too tired, when something else comes up, and so on. One month quickly becomes two months, and soon the goal has fallen by the wayside.
Maintaining self-discipline is so much easier with themed days. Why torture yourself at the end of an already full day, when you can achieve something smoothly and easily with only a slightly different approach to your time management?
Themed days can help you avoid multitasking
If you’re working on multiple projects at the same time, you can also use the themed days concept to avoid multitasking and stay more productive. You devote a certain day (or a couple of days) in a week to a specific project and stay brutally focused.
As mentioned, Elon Musk devotes two days to Tesla, two days to SpaceX and one day to his solar company. As an alternative, you could devote:
- two days in your company to sales and acquiring new customers,
- two days to product development,
- one day to finance,
- and one day to administration and internal affairs, or whatever else needs to get done.
If you use the concept of themed days like that, it enables you to push certain complex tasks a lot further than you could with multitasking.
Here’s how Jack Dorsey does it:
On Monday, at both companies, I focus on management and running the company. Tuesday is focused on products. Wednesday is focused on marketing and communications and growth. Thursday is focused on developers and partnerships. Friday is focused on the company and the culture and recruiting. Saturday I take off, I hike. Sunday is reflection, feedback, strategy, and getting ready for the week.
With themed days, you get rhythm, focus, and structure in your life, especially by grouping tasks and avoiding multitasking, which hinders your productivity.
And there are many ways you can use themed days to your advantage. Play with the concept, experiment, and find out what works best for you.
To sum up, there are at least three ways of using themed days:
- Have a no-interruptions day devoted to a certain important personal or professional goal you’ve been putting off.
- Use themed days to manage multiple companies, projects, or complex tasks, and devote your entire day to one of these pursuits.
- Use themed days to group specific activities and devote the whole day to them; for example, internal meetings, sales, brainstorming new ideas, strategy, marketing etc. Make sure you make a lot of progress on the selected business function that day.
It’s obvious where the biggest problem of themed days lies, and why not many people utilize the concept. It’s hard to empty your calendar.
But here, the saying: “The hard road becomes easy and the easy road becomes hard.” really applies.
If you put in the effort to empty your calendar, no matter how many people you have to say no to or reschedule, or how many other tasks have to wait, you’ll feel a special kind of happiness and excitement when you see a whole day dedicated to one thing in your calendar.
You’ll instantly know how much you can achieve that day, and you will - if you stick to the plan.
Themed weeks can be themed days on steroids
If you really want to level up your game and accelerate your progress even further, you can introduce themed weeks into your life.
Let’s do the math again. 50 focused hours of learning in a single week, compared to 3 - 5 months of learning for an hour each day. If you plan three themed weeks in a year (3 out of 52 weeks), you can learn more in those three weeks than you can learn in a whole year by learning for one hour per working day.
You can also put your skills to use sooner and it takes less self-discipline. It’s like going on holiday for a week.
You can also use the same concept to devote the whole week to a single project, and really make huge advancements, or to a certain business function,; and today, with all the rapid prototyping tools available, you could take a week to build an MVP/prototype and test your idea on the market.
The only obstacle is having enough motivation to hack your schedule.
Give themed days a test run and see for yourself
The best way to see what themed days can do for your productivity is to simply test the concept So, here’s your homework:
- Open your calendar.
- Schedule a whole day as a no-interruptions day.
- If you can’t empty your calendar in the next two weeks on working days, do it on a Saturday.
- Pick one mentally complex and demanding thing you always wanted to learn or do (personal or professional).
- Prepare a plan of what you will do or learn in those 10 hours of focused work
- Get excited and do it.
I guarantee that afterwards, you will feel a sense of achievement and see the progress that can be made with this approach.
Many great masterpieces of art were created in solitude and isolation, or, in other words, complete dedication to creation. It’s kind of the extreme version of the no-interruptions themed days.
Maybe it’s time to make room in your calendar to create in solitude and present your masterpiece to the world. Or maybe you can just use the concept to advance a project you have been hesitating on and get yourself that next promotion.