This week Elon Musk argued that you need to work at least 80 hours a week to make a difference in the world. Putting 40 hours a week doesn't cut it. As my colleague Geoffrey James said, the math just doesn't add up.

But it also shows a need to feel productive rather than actually being productive. I talk about it extensively in The Ultimate Bite-Sized Entrepreneur, but it's worth reiterating here, especially since this seems to be Musk's consistent viewpoint.

Afraid to stop

I talked about Musk a few years back when he shared this gem:

The first time I took a week off, the Orbital Sciences rocket exploded and Richard Branson's rocket exploded. In that same week. The second time I took a week off, my rocket exploded. The lesson here is don't take a week off.

Paranoia can be mighty fuel, but it isn't sustainable. It's worth repeating: It isn't sustainable.

You are better when you stop

Seriously, please don't do 80 hour weeks as a habit. At worse, do them during crunch time or for a designated period. Then you have a set finish line and can plan accordingly.

For your daily operation, do these structures instead:

  • Plug in minimal viable days: A slow day can make us feel guilty, but it is worth putting that aside. By stripping down your day to the essentials, you can differentiate between second-tier priorities and pure fluff. 
  • Use the oxygen mask principle from Alan Weiss: You can't help the client or your family, you can't do pro bono work, you can't help others in the profession, you can't help anyone unless you yourself are comfortable. You need a healthy selfishness.
  • Embrace natural breaks, including holidays: Been doing the same thing for five years without a break? Then you are organizing and prioritizing your work, and your career, based on whatever you learned a half decade ago.

As I share in my Create Your Worth keynote, stopping actually allows you to see your legacy: What you've built, what you need and, most importantly, how you are showing up in the world. In the past year, Musk has brought the self-destructive tweets and an equally-reckless weed-soaked interview. It might be time for a break.

Published on: Nov 29, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.