Elon Musk Asks Employees To Work Less For Enhanced Productivity Through The 85 Percent Rule

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Elon Musk instructs employees to utilize 85 Percent Rule to increase productivity and efficiency.

The 85 Percent Rule is a strategy of putting in less effort to achieve enhanced productivity. Some celebrities who preach the 85 Percent Rule include Elon Musk, Usain Bolt, and Hugh Jackman.

Elon Musk works as much as 120 hours per week, but he says that he mostly works about 80 hours these days.

“You’re gonna go a little bonkers if you work 120 hours a week,” Musk told CNBC in 2018. “There were times when, some weeks … I haven’t counted exactly, but I would just sort of sleep for a few hours, work, sleep for a few hours, work, seven days a week. Some of those days must have been 120 hours or something nutty.”

However, when it comes to his employees, Musk realizes that less can be more. Musk recently sent a memo to Tesla employees regarding fourth-quarter costs. The Tesla CEO encouraged employees to not work overtime and to instead work consistently throughout and not to have to push for a frenzied finish to end the quarter. Musk is concerned that workers exhausting themselves to meet Q4 goals could hamper first-quarter productivity.

“By avoiding the typical end-of-quarter dash, followed by the steep drop that follows it, Musk is asking staff to slow down and work to steady production,” Inc. magazine reported. “It is another genius lesson from the master of high performance’s playbook. Musk isn’t just urging staff to create a consistent and manageable flow; he’s also brilliantly taking the pressure off of his staff’s shoulders by asking them to slow down and work less.”

Musk is harnessing the 85% Rule as a psychological hack to increase productivity.

The 85 Percent Rule has you shoot for utilizing 85% of your energy. However, your brain may still have you perform at 100%, but you won’t have the tenseness of running at maximum capacity. There is perceived room to breathe so that you don’t feel overwhelmed. Also, if you think you’re working at 85%, that means that there is another gear for you to improve your performance. There is a perception that the task is easier since you don’t think you’re pushing it at full throttle.

World-class runner Usain Bolt also purportedly used the 85% Rule.

“Before a race, Usain Bolt always seemed relaxed. He smiled. He waved to the crowd. He appeared to enjoy the attention and the moment,” Inc. states. “During the first 30 meters or so of a race (the “drive phase”), Bolt kept his head down, body forward. Then he slowly straightened … and for the last 40 to 50 meters, when the race could be won or lost, Bolt actually relaxed: Shoulders loose, hands unclenched, face muscles slack.”

Hugh Jackman revealed that he is a proponent of the 85 Percent Rule during an appearance on the Tim Ferriss Show podcast.

Jackman said, “If I were the coach and Hugh Jackman was on my team, I wouldn’t put more pressure on him, push him more. I wouldn’t yell at him, scream.”

Jackman noted that his best performances have come from doing intense research and preparation, but don’t exert yourself too much because the pressure can hurt your execution.

“That’s why you see every sprinter poking their tongue out now and dancing around with joy before they run the hundred meters,” Jackman said. “You know, that sense of having the right level of relaxation. I think that they call it the 85 percent rule. If you tell most A-type athletes to run at their 85 percent capacity, they will run faster than if you tell them to run 100 because it’s more about relaxation and form and optimizing the muscles in the right way.”

Podcast host Tim Ferriss added, “And I love the 85 percent, run at 85 percent effort example that you gave.”

“You could apply that to sitting down and writing,” he continued. “You could apply it to almost anything where being overtense is not your friend, and it’s not going to help you.”

Jackman said, “I actually think you need to risk being bad. Just let it be.”

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