On another typical day after work, I began wandering on the internet and as it so happens – one topic led to another – and I discovered something known as the ‘Five Hour Rule’. Although the name was too subtle to get me excited, the introductory sentence had me hooked. I knew I had struck gold. Apparently, this rule is every billionaire’s open secret! Are you interested yet?

Firstly, ask yourself – In what quantity do you read? To what extent do you experiment? In what intensity do you reflect on your mistakes? Do you earnestly practice to be good at what you do? If you don’t, you may fall behind your colleagues and join the league of has-beens. To become a true expert in your field of interest, you do not need tens of thousands of hours – a notion which became very popular in the last few years. You can begin as I did, with the simple step – the five hour rule.

What is the five hour rule?

What then is the five hour rule? Five hour rule is the rule followed by the likes of Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Oprah Winfrey and Mark Zuckerberg. In spite of their extremely busy lives, these billionaires have set aside one hour each day, or five hours a week to reading and learning. I too, as a general practice, read for two hours at the end of the day to keep myself abreast of knowledge and events.
If you want to go the way of these global giants, start off by reading consistently every day. In the age of social media and other things which keep us falsely ‘busy’, many of us haven’t touched a real book in years. Break the spell and begin with any book that seems to interest you. Pace up and start adding to the list of books you want to read. Aim to read for at least one hour a day and a minimum of five hours a week.
Add on to the skills you have

Choosing books with relevance to your profession will help add on to the skills you have. I recommend reading hard copies because in order to read sincerely, you must keep a distance from distractions and this is not possible if you read on your iPad as you will inevitably end up playing Fruit Ninja. Many billionaires are manic readers and Oprah, in particular, was very inspiring. She hails that books were her “pass to personal freedom”. So, I too have started reading some of Oprah’s Book Club recommendations.

Information on something you didn’t know before

Consciously reading to improve your knowledge on a topic or to gain information on something you didn’t know before is very beneficial in the long run. Of course, it is difficult to stay committed to books like Bill Gates is (50 books a year!), but do attempt to enrich your mind an hour a day.
Reading and learning by doing

Can one become an expert without an analytical bent of mind? I strongly believe a critical, questioning mind is a prerequisite to attaining expertise in a subject. This is not limited to reading. It extends to learning by doing.
Not many of us practice experiments because we fail to understand the how the outcome will ‘help in real life’. When reading facts, do not blindly absorb them – ask pertinent questions. Find out the when, where, what, why, who and how and unleash the journalist within you to find out answers which are not available. Such experiments can let new ideas flow and renew our goals. It is a key component of the ‘Five Hour Rule’.

Understand the reason for failure

The rule also extends to a facet of our personality, which I find interesting. Earlier, I would never share my progress or my failure with anyone. I thought that if I passed or failed in something it was completely irrelevant to my colleagues and family. The goals were my task and if I couldn’t achieve them, I would simply move on.
But this showed impatience and escapism on my part. I read that entrepreneur Ray Dalio informs his entire company through their public system when he fails at something, and they help him understand the reason for failure! That switched up my perspective. I began sharing and deconstructing my struggles with my best friend. You can try to confide in someone (or a team) who is capable of sharing such insight with you.

Remember, the fruit of the Five Hour Rule is gradual, yet a considerable improvement over time. Improve yourself, not just your productivity. Improve your knowledge, not just your work efficiency. Good luck!