Elon Musk is one of the richest people in the world and maybe one of the busiest.
The CEO of Tesla and SpaceX and founder of The Boring Company and Neuralink has often talked about working 100-plus hours a week, being in meetings until 2 in the morning and even sleeping under his desk in his office to save time. He also a father of six, and is even a prolific tweeter, known to answer Tesla customer service queries by tweet (as well as get himself in trouble with the SEC and others).
And now, Musk been tapped to join the board of directors at entertainment conglomerate Endeavor Group Holdings. (Musk also currently holds board positions with Tesla and SpaceX.)
Of course, Musk is not alone when it comes to working all the time — so-called “hustle porn” has become a badge of honor of sorts, perhaps especially in the world of tech.
But is there such a thing as working too hard or having too many responsibilities that your productivity suffers as a result? Here’s what the experts say.
Multitasking can be detrimental to performance
Research has shown that multi-tasking, shifting your attention from one task to another, is detrimental to your performance and output, explains Gal Zauberman, professor at the Yale School of Management who studies the role of time in decision-making. Multitasking makes you less efficient and productive, and more likely to make mistakes.
Most of us like some variability in our days, and we do several different tasks throughout the day.
However, not everyone is skilled at switching between roles very quickly and efficiently: “The question is, do Elon Musk-like people have the capacity to do so many different roles at the same time?” Zauberman says.
For some people, it can be invigorating and stimulating to “be around other great minds in disparate industries or disparate focuses,” Rebecca Morgan, a management and productivity consultant in Silicon Valley, tells CNBC Make It. “Often innovators borrow an idea from a totally different industry to apply to their project.”
But with each job or role that you take on, you have to trade it for something else.
“We only have so many minutes a day,” Morgan says. “So if you are giving those, then you’re giving up something else.”
Broadly speaking, people tend to have an idealized view of what a “successful person” looks like, Zauberman says. “We value a lot of specialization,” he says. “So now when someone can excel in more than one thing it’s astonishing.”
Burnout happens when stress isn’t managed
Even Musk has admitted that his lifestyle is ill-advised: “No one should put this many hours into your work,” he told Axios in 2018. ”[It’s] not recommended for anyone. You’re gonna go a little bonkers if you work 120 hours a week.”
“We each have a capacity for working before the quality of our work is compromised,” Emily Ballesteros, a burnout management coach in Chicago, tells CNBC Make It. For example, if something as critical as sleep is being compromised, then your work and personal life will inevitably suffer, she says.
Of course, it’s possible that people like Musk have figured out personal ways to increase their capacity to work, for example, delegating responsibilities to other team members or hiring people to help out in other areas of his life.
“However, we all have indisputable physical limits,” Ballesteros says.
Burnout occurs as a result of chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed, and is characterized by feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, negativity or cynicism related your job and reduced professional efficacy.
“We can’t know people’s limits,” Ballesteros says. Given that, it’s important that organizations set “extremely clear expectations so that there are objective indicators of quality that will let them know if [someone] is being stretched too thin to perform.”
On an individual level, it’s also important to check in with yourself to know when to set limits, Ballesteros says. You might ask yourself: Am I losing sleep over stress? Is my health being impacted? Are my relationships suffering? Do I spend time on what is important to me?
A representative for Musk did not immediately respond to CNBC Make It’s request for comment.