What Is The 85 Rule In Business? Elon Musk’s Best Practice

Are you able to get more done in less time? For the most part, we want to be more productive in business. Whether you run a business or work as an employee, it helps with succeeding in the long run. There is one approach to doing that known as the 85 percent rule. So what is the 85 rule? In this article, I will explain the rule and lay out some simple ways to apply it where you work.

Note: We may include products or services that will be helpful to our readers. This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, please review the affiliate disclosure page.
  1. What Is The 85% Rule?
  2. How Does Elon Musk Use The 85% Rule?
  3. What Was The Overall Purpose Of The Rule?
  4. How To Apply The 85% Rule Effectively?

What is the 85% rule?

If you’re not familiar with this rule, it’s simple to understand and implement. Here’s what it means in layman’s terms:

  • If you want to get more things done, you’ll need to do less work. The end result can be doing more work, instead of sticking to doing a bunch of tasks in one sitting. 
What is the 85 rule? The 85% rule for working is all about doing less work, rather than overworking.

By asking less from others and ourselves, our expectations are reduced. It also brings down the pressure from others when real work needs to get done. 

Applying this rule can help boost overall productivity, especially with not rushing through specific tasks. Although a lot of people work well under pressure, it’s not the best approach for optimal performance. 

The 85% rule to increase productivity for entrepreneurs

How does Elon Musk use the 85% rule?

Elon Musk is considered to be superhuman to a lot of people. It seems like he works all the time (without resting or sleeping at all). For example, he may work up to 120 hours per week- considering that he’s created successful businesses over time, including Tesla.

Near the end of 2021, Musk wanted to reduce transportation and delivery costs at Tesla. In order to avoid additional costs to pay, Tesla did the following things:

  • Cut overtime hours
  • To expedite services, additional costs were incurred
  • Brought on additional resources, such as temporary contractors
What is the 85 rule? By working less, you can get more done while feeling less overwhelmed.

The idea behind it was so the business would not be impacted going into Quarter 1 2022. If more staff had taken on additional hours and resources, they may experience a dip at the beginning of the year. 

By taking this approach, Musk helped the staff take a step back and slow down a little bit. For example, working smarter and at a good pace, it helped take the pressure off working. It sure helps taking time to slow down and work less.

What was the overall purpose of using the rule?

What Musk basically did was the opposite of what people think: Working less (doing less) leads to an increase in productivity. Applying the 85% rule is not synonymous with adding more working hours.

Instead, it should be thought of as the other way around. By taking a different approach to management, Musk helped out his staff boost their productivity.

When that happens, workers tend to feel less pressured and happier. According to one study from Oxford University, happier workers usually feel more productive.

For an in-depth review, check out the findings of what the researchers found.

What is the 85 rule? Using that simple rule can lead to an increase in productivity.

My experience at work

When I worked a few jobs, I always did the exact opposite. When I was asked to work overtime, I thought it would mean getting more done. 

However, I’ve learned that was not always the right outcome. When we work extra hours (i.e. 10 hours or more), productivity tends to go down.

I can see why because people may feel tired as they work longer days. In my experience, productivity was either the same or it went down when working additional hours at work.

How to apply the 85% rule effectively?

In the workplace, the 85% rule is not used often, even though it’s simple to implement. But it can be done the right way, so here are some things to do in implementing the rule:

Focus on tasks that will grow your business

This rule focuses on doing the most important work. In other words, that involves prioritizing your tasks.

Out of all the tasks you need to do, which ones need more attention? Which ones need to get done today? If you answer yes, then you need to put your energy and focus into doing those tasks first.

Don’t worry too much about the administrative work. If you’re a business owner, you know that type of work does not determine whether your business grows or not. 

Focusing on the priorities first (what we refer to as the 85%), then coming back to the little tasks (the 15%) later. That’s the whole point of applying the 85% rule in business.

Grammarly Writing Support

Don’t ask your staff to do overtime often

Doing overtime may help get more work done; however, it may decrease productivity as staff works more hours. For example, if you work more than ten hours a day, it can get tiring sometimes. 

That’s one reason why Musk applied this rule: Not only to help his staff but to increase productivity in the long haul. Also, it’s far much better health-wise for workers as well.

Delegate and outsource work when possible

To take pressure off workers, make sure to delegate tasks by using other resources. If you have a large team of staff, split up some responsibilities to help break up the workload.

What is the 85 rule? By automating and delegating some tasks, it will be easier to do business.

That’s what Musk did at Tesla in 2021. The company utilized temporary contractors to help out with extra work.

Also, outsourcing any work that can be done elsewhere will help in these situations. If there is work that can be easily automated (or sent out to other locations), that’s another option to look into. 

The most successful businesses know how to delegate and outsource their work. In the end, it helps save time while being more productive.

Final Words

The 85% rule in business can be helpful by doing less (rather than doing more all at once). What Musk did at Tesla was well-intended, and it worked out for both him and the company overall.

Not only did it help out the staff be less overwhelmed, but they were much happier and more productive. When you focus on the priorities (work that matters- the 85%), you can get a lot more done in less time

If businesses did that by applying that rule, it may have a difference in workplace performance. If Musk can do it properly, why not follow his example? So let that rule help grow your business further.

Your Turn: Do you find the 85% rule effective?

I would like to get your thoughts on the 85% rule. Do you think that working more hours is the solution?

Does it feel weird to think you need to work less to get more done? Has this rule been applied where you work? Have you tried it out yourself?

Feel free to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below. I look forward to reading your responses, and I’ll gladly respond promptly.

If you got value from this article, please bookmark this website to visit later for new posts every week.

Spread the word to others. Sharing is caring!

To get more of this type of content, you won't want to miss out my daily email letters. These are worth some golden nuggets and best tips to help you in your business. Sign up today!

Count me in on the daily letters via email!

For the latest videos that come out every week, subscribe to the YouTube channel. Also, be sure to check out our new space on 
Twitter X!


Twitter (X)

Medium Profile
Eric is the owner and chief editor of notimekillers.com. 

He takes great pride in helping people manage their time and grow their businesses. 

Eric is a firm believer in financial and time freedom, as he believes in financial independence and taking ownership of your time. 

“Time is your most important asset. It can be your best friend or worst enemy. How you use your time can shape the future you desire to have.” 

In his leisure time, Eric loves to write and read whenever possible. He enjoys going for long walks outdoors while doing in-home workout videos every week. 

You can also connect with Eric via LinkedIn.

Self Photo 2019: Here's a picture at a building in downtown Chicago.

Everyday Low Prices on Printer & Copier Paper, Pens at DigitalBuyer.com

6 thoughts on “What Is The 85 Rule In Business? Elon Musk’s Best Practice”

  1. I agree totally with this literature; however, I would be nervous about the word doing less nowadays. I know exactly what you mean and that comes from experience being in construction. 

    I had coworkers that were 90 MPH all day and then I had the meticulous coworkers that would break their day out in stages. I noticed at the end of the day the ones that were practically running had several projects going, but NONE were completed. 

    It may look at first glance like they did so much but not really. Now the slower but more focused coworkers finished every job 0 and the job site was cleaner which meant safer! 

    I love the working smarter not harder method.

    Kevin and Son

    • Hi,

      The concept of “doing less” can throw off some people. For me, doing less may mean more if you work smarter. But doing less can benefit your overall productivity if done correctly.

      Your relevant experience in the construction field helps with applying this rule. Especially when it comes to working on other projects, it can help with time management.

      That’s right- working smart, not harder is a method a lot of people like to use.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts- I greatly appreciate them.

  2. Hi,

    Being a businessman for many years where the production of employees was very critical to our margins and success, I find this article very interesting.  In all honesty, I have never heard of the 85 percent rule.

    But after reading your in-depth article, I certainly plan on giving it a go.  After all, if it worked for Mr. Musk, why wouldn’t it work for my business?

    Thank you for educating me on the concept of the 85 percent rule.


    • Hi Mike,

      The 85% rule is one that a lot of people are not aware of. I believe it’s something that needs to be discussed in the workplace.

      What Musk did was clever: Not only did it help Tesla, but it helped his staff not work as many hours. Doing overtime can take a toll on people’s health.

      So applying this rule was well-intended, and it ended up with great results. I would encourage you to give it a try for your business.

      Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts- they’re greatly appreciated.

  3. Hi Eric,

    Everyone wants to get more work done in less time. The way Elon Must is doing and accomplishing it is quite impressive. 

    In my workplace, I use to contract out to international corporations having the expertise that I need. It becomes cheaper and we save time.  

    However, the instruction should be clear and the worker on the others should understand the workflow and the delivery target and timeline. There are interim follow-ups to make sure the deliverables are on track.

    What we were not doing is not cutting off our extra hours which one should. Nowadays, the work-heavy corporation is taking the help of acceleration centers that have experts. 

    They also hire well-experienced part-timers and contractors to get more done. In principle, it should reduce the overwork time of the full-time employees. 

    As you have rightly mentioned, time is your most important asset. I can’t agree with you more on this one. 

    Thank you very much for this important article.

    • Hi Anusuya,

      Getting more work done in less time is getting more attention. If more people understand how that works, productivity can go up dramatically if done correctly.

      Your experience with contract work is relevant. That was well-explained, as it’s very common for that work to be outsourced. 

      Not only that, it saves a lot of money and time. Whatever work needs to get done, you can ensure that it will get done in a timely manner.

      I’m glad that we’re in agreement when it comes to this rule. You have the right mindset when it comes to time.

      Thank you very much for sharing your impressive insights. I greatly appreciate what you have to provide to our readers.


Leave a Comment