Elon Musk has been everywhere. Solving production and logistics problems for his Tesla Model 3, making space history with his SpaceX company, or even publicly feuding with fellow billionaires.

But everywhere has a price.

In a shockingly vulnerable interview he gave the New York Times, Musk alternated between laughing and crying as he talked about the toll his job(s) were having on his life.

He choked up as he shared the fact that he almost missed his brother's wedding this summer. He stopped talking for a moment after saying, "There were times when I didn't leave the factory for three or four days--days when I didn't go outside. This has really come at the expense of seeing my kids. And seeing friends."

He could barely get the words out that he spent the entirety of his 47th birthday (June 28th) working, "All night--no friends, nothing" and revealed he's been taking Ambien to help him sleep.

Musk's herculean pace matches his real-life Tony Stark personae. He's worked 120 hour weeks and hasn't taken more than a weeks vacation since 2001 when he had malaria. Musk added, "It's not been great, actually. I've had friends come by who are really concerned."

He cited his workload as the cause for recent public miscues like lashing out at analysts and Thai cave divers. He called the past year his most painful and excruciating, with the worst yet to come (as short-sellers try to profit by bashing Tesla with their own agenda). 

Unexpected vulnerability leading to what I bet you're thinking is an expected message. Stop working so hard! Life's too short! Make better choices!

And of course, that is a part of the core message--one so obvious that I struggled with whether or not I should write this column. But I wanted to bring this to the party--a reminder that no one, no matter how important, no matter the gravity of what they're working on within the context of their own world or the world in general, can escape the toll of an out-of-whack work-life balance.

No one.

And I wanted to offer help. Not overly general, platitude-like advice, but a S.P.E.C.I.F.I.C. plan for achieving better work-life harmony.

Simplification

Complexity has a way of creeping steadily into our work lives in small, incremental doses that build up over time. We often don't notice the cumulative effect of each little activity we engage in/take on until we look up and suddenly things at work seem way too complex, overwrought, and unproductive. Stop to ask yourself "Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze" or craft a "To-Don't" list.

The point is to be intentional about simplifying.

Productivity self-audit

This requires a self-critical lens and watchful eye to pinpoint unproductive behaviors that drain time and energy. These behaviors/bad habits simply must go.

Energy renewing activities

Engage in activities that will restore energy (like getting the sleep, exercise and nutrition your body needs, taking the time off from work that you're entitled, and avoiding getting sucked into things at work that drain your energy). 

Much of achieving work-life harmony is about finding ways to restore and renew your energy, so you have plenty when work starts and ends. 

Choices

Making choices is the most fundamental element of achieving work-life harmony.  We all instinctively know this, yet we don't do enough of it. 

Choices must be made based upon reflection and realization of what kind of life you want to lead. Choices informed by keeping what's truly most important in front of you. It's not just about saying no, it's about knowing what to say no to, as part of a bigger integrated plan.  Then it's about weaving all those choices into one tapestry--one harmonious life--with work integrated accordingly. 

In-touch with your situation

Self-awareness and vulnerability to admit that your balance is out of whack is essential to changing the pattern you've fallen into.

Flexibility

Find ways to build it into your work with options like compressed work weeks, flex hours, less than full-time options, work from home options, or location free jobs. 

Involve Others

Work-life harmony is a massive task that takes help from others. The family should be enrolled. Co-workers can help by not scheduling meetings before 8AM or after 5PM. They can help by respecting that a meeting from 9-10AM ends at 10AM, not 10:15AM, which can throw a whole day off and affect work departure time. 

The point is to bravely "go public" with the goal of work-life harmony and enlist all the help possible. 

Commit

Work-life harmony has to truly become a priority as there is perhaps no other goal that will inherently have more barriers. 

So be specific and become better harmonized before you reach a Musk-like melting point in your own way. 

Published on: Aug 20, 2018