The 5-hour Rule Used by Bill Gates and Barack Obama

A rule for success

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The 5-hour Rule Used by Bill Gates and Barack Obama

Bill Gates, Barack Obama, Jack Ma, Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey – they are all successful in their respective careers, and they have one thing in common – all of them follow the 5-hour rule. This means allotting one hour per weekday for reading and learning (e.g. online courses).

5 Hour Rule Theme

Working Smart

Empact founder Michael Simmons coined the phrase, the five-hour rule, regarding reading and learning. This rule can be traced back to the life of Benjamin Franklin who spent about an hour a day on deliberate learning. He started his day early to read and write, as well as create personal goals and monitor his progress. Simmons created the five-hour rule from this practice – one hour every weekday.

This principle is an effective way toward success because working harder and for a longer period of time is not equivalent to working smarter. When you devote time to reading and learning, you veer away from your current tasks and invest in self-improvement. That’s how you work smart. You can invest in self-improvement by learning some new skills with CFI’s Excel Crash Course!

5-Hour Rule - Working Smart

Reading for Success

You may think that after a hard day’s work, all you want to do is eat and relax in front of the TV. In this fast-paced life, working and taking care of your family already take up most of your time. While spending your free time relaxing is not necessarily a bad thing, reading regularly is a healthy habit if you want to be successful.

According to a five-year study by Thomas Corley involving over 200 self-made millionaires, 86 percent said they read for more than just fun. As if sitting down and reading a book is not enough, 63 percent said they use audiobooks during their morning commute.

5-Hour Rule - Audiobook

Stages of the 5-Hour Rule on Reading

Many successful people who engage in deliberate learning go through three stages:

#1. Read

Most successful business leaders and personalities are voracious readers, not only to expand their knowledge but also to be aware of strategies and tactics of others. If you think devoting one hour per day for reading is too much, go for about 30 minutes instead.

Develop the habit of reading by bringing a book with you wherever you go. This way, you can flip through several pages while waiting for your turn at the bank rather than browsing through your social media accounts. If you prefer audiobooks, you can try listening to one during your morning commute.

#2. Think/Reflect

The 5-hour rule may include time for thinking and reflecting. Some may write notes in their journal, while others zone out and block off the world. This is an opportunity to assess your mistakes and accomplishments. This prepares you for achieving your goals.

In a study from the University of Texas at Austin, researchers found that mental rest helps boost future learning.

5 Hour Rule - Thinking and Reflecting

#3. Experiment

Tech giants conduct a lot of experiments and testing to reach where they are today. Inventions were created out of experiments by great minds. Experiments enable you to apply what you’ve learned. When you experiment, you can see what works, what doesn’t, and ask for feedback from peers.

Learning does not stop inside a classroom. It is a never-ending process that will make you productive on a regular basis and help you achieve success over time. Try the 5-hour rule and make reading and learning a habit. Experiment with some of CFI’s free courses to see if online learning works for you!

5-Hour Rule - Experiment

Additional Resources

Corporate Finance Institute has a variety of courses and resources that can help you learn and advance your career! Check them out below:

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