What Is The 5-Hour Rule Used By Many Of The World's Most Successful People?

These days, it feels like there are too many tips, tricks, and lessons from billionaires to even count. From memoirs and self-help books to tweets (or, rather, X posts), it can be hard to keep track of all of the unsolicited advice thrown around by CEOs and entrepreneurs. While these lessons for success can border on the absurd or, at a minimum, be fatiguing, there's one piece of advice in particular that might actually be worth a try. The 5-hour rule is a term and concept originally coined by author and entrepreneur Michael Simmons. The idea is that a person should spend five hours a week (i.e., one hour every working day) either learning or practicing.

While this sounds simple enough, busy schedules, commutes, and even family care can all make carving out an entire hour feel impossible for many. Plus, for some, taking an hour out of an already busy day to read might not sound like the most fun way to spend free time. However, with a bit of creativity, you can easily fit the 5-hour rule into your life (and existing schedule). The big thing to keep in mind about the rule is that there's no singular way to do it. Plus, how you might personally interpret what it means to learn or practice could make your 5-hour rule technique unique.

Applying the 5-hour rule

Since the 5-hour rule is fairly popular with modern entrepreneurs, there are a bevy of different examples for applying the rule to your life. Most choose to break down the 5-hour rule into three options: read, reflect, and/or experiment. While reading might sound simple enough, it can also be daunting to know where to start if you're not a regular reader. While good old-fashioned hard or paperback books are always a classic, e-readers can be easier to transport. Also, the growth of audiobooks and the proliferation of podcasts makes it even easier to get your hour of reading in a more modern way. This can be especially useful as a trick to double up on a busy schedule (i.e., listening during your commute or during lunch).

Incorporating reflection into your weekly routine can feel confusing at the start. While staring at a wall and thinking is definitely one way, don't pass up more interactive options if that doesn't appeal to you. Journaling, for example, can be a great way for not only reflecting but also as a way to get your thoughts out. You can also offer yourself daily prompts if you struggle with how to begin.

Experimentation, meanwhile, is perhaps easiest to incorporate into your existing life and schedule because it often involves doing the same behaviors as before. Looking at your decisions, especially at work, through the lens of experimentation can allow you to try new things, whether that means a different schedule or new planner system, volunteering, or even signing up for additional training opportunities.

Barriers to using the 5-hour rule

While the 5-hour rule is a great idea in theory, the rule should also be taken with a grain of salt. It's important to realize there are many different cultural, economic, and, even, gender barriers that can make implementing the rule especially difficult. Per a report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, women spend disproportionately more time (two to 10 times more, to be exact) doing what is called unpaid care work than men do. Unpaid care work comprises things like cooking, cleaning, shopping, and caring for others (children, the ill, and/or the elderly). These duties can make the 5-hour rule feel even more out of reach for women due to the "double burden" placed on women who work and are still expected to handle the majority of home-life burdens and time commitments.

Just how big the free-time discrepancy between genders is depends largely on geographic location and associated gender norms. For instance, men in Portugal and India enjoy 50% more leisure time than women do in those countries. Those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds who might have to work two or more jobs are similarly disadvantaged from the privilege required to implement the 5- hour rule. With that in mind, according to a 2021 survey from Statista, nearly 50% of American respondents admitted to spending an average of five to six hours on their smartphone daily.