A healthy chunk of the names that come to mind are people who abide by one common principle: the five-hour rule. We’re not saying this will make you the next Warren Buffett, but, hey, it’s definitely the place to start.
The rule itself is pretty simple: Carve out one hour from each weekday (one hour + five weekdays = five hours) to devote to deliberate practice and learning. Insert any bit of reading, studying, or practicing here that is applicable to the greater goal of advancing in your field. That’s it. Ta-da. Watch out, Mr. Buffett.
The reason why the five-hour rule is so effective in priming the world’s most accomplished people for continued success comes down to two things. First, working harder and longer is not the same as working smarter. Not even close. Smart working includes taking a little time away to learn instead of do. This will help you focus on long-term self-improvement, rather than your current workload. Do you really think Bill Gates reading 50 books a year is directly tied to his daily projects.
Secondly, nothing beats an expert. Jumping right into the deep end, figuring things out as you go is great and all, but there’s no substitute for good ol’ fashioned expertise. Billionaire entrepreneur Marc Andreessen points to Mark Zuckerberg as an example, saying in an interview, “I think skill acquisition, literally the acquisition of skills and how to do things, is just dramatically underrated. […] There’s a reason there are so many stories about Mark Zuckerberg. There aren’t that many Mark Zuckerbergs. […] The really great CEOs, if you spend time with them — you would find this to be true of Mark today or of any of the great CEOs of today or the past — they are really encyclopedic in their knowledge of how to run a company, and it’s very hard to just intuit all of that in your early 20s.”
An Inc. article picked apart the ways different five-hour rulers spent their daily learning hour, separating the trends into three buckets:
1. Read. Besides Bill Gates, big-time bookworms include Oprah, President Obama, Mark Cuban, Nike founder Phil Knight, billionaire entrepreneur David Rubenstein, and self-made billionaire and owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers Dan Gilbert. Book club goals, anyone?
2. Think. This can feel like an hour of doing nothing, but taking time to reflect has been shown to improve job performance. It’s critical for AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, who makes his senior team spend four hours per week thinking.
3. Experiment. Don’t knock it till ya try it, literally. Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison were known to take risky experiments. Google and Microsoft have allotted time in the day for employees to experiment with their ideas.