The 5-Hour Rule: the Secret to Success, or Just a Fad?

Ever heard of the 5-hour rule? Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Oprah Winfrey all use the 5-hour rule. But is it really the "secret to success", or just a fad? Here's what 30 successful entrepreneurs say...

The 5-Hour Rule

Do you use the 5-hour rule?

We asked 30 successful entrepreneurs whether they use the 5-hour rule. And if so, how does it work?

Their answers were revealing.

But briefly before we dive in to their tips, you may be wondering, what is this 5-hour rule anyway? Here’s the definition…

What is the 5-hour Rule?

The 5-hour rule is a success strategy where you invest approximately one hour per weekday to deliberate learning.

The term was coined by Michael Simmons, who was inspired by Benjamin Franklin’s weekly routine.

Throughout Ben Franklin’s adult life, he would devote roughly one hour per day to waking up early to read and write, setting personal growth goals, experimenting, conversing with his mastermind community, reflecting, and tracking his results.

Simmons says that the core concept of the 5-hour rule is to create empty space in your day for learning, practicing, ruminating, experimentation and problem solving.

Chess prodigy and world-champion martial artist Josh Waitzkin says,

“I have built a life around having empty space for the development of my ideas…In the creative process, it’s so easy to drive for efficiency and take for granted the really subtle internal work that it takes to play on that razor’s edge.”

But does the five-hour rule really make a difference? How many successful people actually follow this rule in their day to day lives?

Particularly in this age of information overload and instant gratification where we are required to work with greater and greater efficiency, creating empty space can be a daunting task.

How many entrepreneurs are actually able to make that space in their calendar, and if so, does the five-hour rule work for them?

Let’s find out…

1. Ian Chew

Founder, IanChew.com

ian-chew 5-hour rule

Learning is the no. 1 competitive advantage. Why? Just knowing one area of expertise is never enough to be a top performer in our world of change and uncertainty.

For example, Elon Musk’s successes can be traced back to his learning superpowers across industries. At the same time, it’s easy to fall behind on learning, since it’s never often urgent enough on our list of to-dos.

To counter that psychological tendency, I make sure I get the bare minimum done everyday, with 3 Minute Habits that I designed for myself:

  • Reading 2-3 pages of a new book
  • Listening to a business contact’s new insight, problem, etc.
  • Thinking strategically without any distractions

Once I start doing any of the above, I often go beyond 3 minutes as I get momentum to learn more. Research done by Stanford psychologist BJ Fogg shows how sustainable and impactful behavioral change comes from small, consistent habits.

2. Tyler Basu

Founder, TylerBasu.com

tyler-basu 5-hour rule

Someone once told me that if you’re not growing, you’re dying.

There is no such thing as stagnation. In order to continue growing and evolving, you must be continuously learning. Taking that advice to heart, I’ve made it a priority to devote time to my own personal development every day. Whether by reading books, listening to podcasts, taking online courses, or attending seminars, by doing these things consistently I’ve been able to sharpen my skills and inspire new ideas on a regular basis.

For anyone who is serious about making progress in every area of their life, I recommend setting aside at least 30 minutes per day for your education and personal development. There is power in consistency.

3. Ashley Faulkes

Founder, Mad Lemmings

ashley-faulkes 5-hour rule

I will start out being honest. I am not so organized as to have a set schedule or plan for the day. I know what the most important tasks are and always get to them each day. I also have a long term plan that I move along when I have time.

But, when it comes to learning, I approach it like this. When I see a hole in my knowledge or a great opportunity for a course I want to dive into, I grab it. I then try to allocate some time each week to go through the material and learn it.

It depends on priorities and clients though. For example, right now I should be finishing a webinar course I am doing. But I have too much else to do. However, when client work quietens down, I will dive into the course full-force.

I believe we should always be learning, reading and networking. In between, in an allocated time-slot, or whatever works for you. But these things are the pillars of business for anyone serious about moving forward.

4. Marcus Krieg

Founder, Authority Unleashed

marcus-krieg 5-hour rule

I always set aside time to read first thing in the morning, when I’m freshest.

A lot of people who’ve already made it will advocate for “just in time learning” and encourage you to focus more on taking action than learning. And they’ve got a point, you do need to prioritize action.

But when you’re first getting started with something you want to be great at (art, business, etc.), there’s a ton to learn before you achieve mastery. Don’t mistake learning for work, but put in the work to learn.

5. Ian Rajkumar

On-Camera Confidence Coach

ian-rajkumar

Technically yes and no.

You see, I’m a knowledge sponge, I love researching about new things that I’m learning about, I go all out with books and video training. Because when the passion takes over me, I want the knowledge right there and then. I’m like a kid in a candy store, which means I don’t set aside time each day for new things I’m learning since I take all of it in bulk.

However, I would listen to a podcast when I am on my daily one hour walk which I consider very important to my growth because I am learning more about things I’m familiar with and also I am learning about new things I’ve never heard of before. And what’s super helpful is that I am also learning from other people’s mistakes.

6. Heidi Hapanowicz

Branding Photography & Design

heidi-hapanowicz 5-hour rule

Hell yes. Every single day. My brain craves learning the same way my body craves food!

I try to fit it in as often as possible, even if it’s just turning on an audio book or podcast while I’m cooking dinner or editing photos!

7. Neal Samudre

Founder, Essential Hustle

neal-samudre 5-hour rule

I try to in the mornings and at nights! Also, even though I have a full-time job, I still take on copywriting clients so I don’t fall behind on my skill. I view my client work as learning, and my full-time job as helping entrepreneurs automate their biz.

I feel like I’m learning every day, which is crucial for me to feel purpose and worth in everything I do. At the end of the day, learning helps me feel like I’m moving forward, and I never want to stop moving forward in life and business.

8. John Lim

Host, Moving Forward Podcast

john-lim 5-hour rule

Yes! Learning is important for me as a Podcaster and someone who is trying to build a business.

So I’ll set aside time to read a blog or article, attend a webinar, listen to a podcast or watch a video. Of course, whenever I interview a guest that is a huge learning moment for me.

9. Michael Teoh

Founder, Thriving Talents

michael-teoh 5-hour rule

Despite juggling speaking engagements across the world, I still manage to set aside a half hour per day to read up on just about anything. Why? Well, a mentor of mine once told me, “There is only one thing constant in the world, and that is change!”

I believe that for someone to grow into a leader, he or she needs to invest in knowledge.

10. Michelle Bridger

Facebook Advertising

michelle-bridger 5-hour rule

About half the time I do.

Right now I am going through two courses and pushing through to get them done. But other times, I stay busy and just work on my business.

11. Lauren Vanessa Zink

Founder, Tiny, Happy Empire

lauren-zink 5-hour rule

I actually set aside Sunday nights for learning.

It’s an easy way to bring in the next week without sacrificing any of the brain power I need to serve my clients Monday – Friday.

 

12. Olivia Derby

Founder, OliviaDerby.com

olivia-derby 5-hour rule

I spend a crazy amount of time learning.

Having worked as a marketer for many years, its been drilled into me that things change and I need to stay on top of it.

Social media changes, people change, technology changes constantly, and if you do not take the time to keep reading, keep exploring, keep figuring things out, you will miss an opportunity.

13. Melissa Burkheimer

Founder, Melissa Burkheimer Studio

melissa-burkheimer 5-hour rule

Yes! During the week I like to carve out time to feed my brain.

Sometimes I read for 15 minutes at the gym, or I’ll schedule time to go through a course I’m taking, or I’ll listen to a podcast episode while in the car.

I’m adding a new model to my business, so I’m learning to be open to new things, learning new skills and most importantly, working on my money blocks.

14. Kristi Dosh

Founder, Guide My Brand

kristi-dosh 5-hour rule

I set aside time each day for learning by subscribing to newsletters and blog RSS feeds that are delivered to me daily.

One of the first things I do each morning is to read through those items that have come in over the past 24 hours. Some I flag to come back to later when I have more time, and others I save to Evernote for either myself or my clients to refer back to later.

I’ve made this part of my daily routine because I have a love of learning. I also think it’s important for me to stay on top of the latest trends so that I can best support my clients. Any time I take on a client in a new niche, I research the leading trade publications and websites in that area and work them into my daily reading mix. This allows me to spot potential opportunities for clients to gain publicity within their respective industries.

15. Caressa Lenae

Founder, CaressaLenae.com

caressa-lenae 5-hour rule

Yes – the first 30 minutes of the day. It’s usually online magazines or a chapter in a current book I’m reading.

I find this to be the best time as it’s usually before my little guy wakes up which gives me time to digest the content. Plus, it sets the tone for the rest of my day and gets my mind flowing with new ideas and inspiration.

Not to mention, I do this from the comfort of my bed. I think we can all find a 30 minute slot in our day to learn something new or build upon what we already know.

16. Sumbul Saleem Tsang

Host, Start Anew Podcast

sumbul-saleem-tsang 5-hour rule

Learning and growing are essential components of my personal definition of happiness and fulfillment. And therefore, I have incorporated an hour of learning into my daily morning routine along with prayer and exercise.

Starting my day with learning and kisses from my 4 year old is what makes me jump out of bed in the morning.

17. Suzi Whitford

Founder, Start a Mom Blog

suzi-whitford 5-hour rule

As a mom blogger with a toddler and baby it’s difficult to find time every day for learning. But it is critical to my growth as a mom and an entrepreneur. So I incorporate my learning seamlessly into my life in the following ways…

I listen to great podcasts while driving and I set aside time for a course or an ebook per month to learn and test new skills. It also helps that my husband is my muse and we share ideas nightly on our after dinner walks.

18. Clay Green

High Performance Coaching

clay-green 5-hour rule

Reading, listening and watching others perform their art, and how they deliver it, hands on exercises around building a business… This is a consistent in my life, always has been. At this point, it is simply part of me.

I believe I am here to grow. Other than having things happen to me unexpectedly, causing me to react and respond by learning something unexpected, taking an active role in deciding what I want to learn has proven to be a very effective way of accomplishing the things I want.

Parents, teachers, spouse, children, boss, everyone has expectations of you. Meeting those expectations may require learning new things. But what do you want?

Answering that question tells me where I want to go. Having clarity on where I want to be and what I want to do clearly defines what information I’m ‘missing’… and that helps me focus on what I need to learn.

19. Dan Ray

Founder, Ray Digital Marketing

dan-ray 5-hour rule

Yes every single day, it’s part of my morning routine. Meditation, breakfast then either reading, listening or watching something that will improve my knowledge in some way.

It’s not always business related either. I enjoy the learning process of just knowing something that I didn’t know before.

20. Amber Khan

Founder, GroBizNiz

amber-khan 5-hour rule

For the longest time I was learning the “wrong” things.

Things I didn’t have interest in but seemed like the right stuff to learn about at that time. Learning those things never satisfied me at any level.

Having kids changed my perspective of how I look at this world and what I see as my purpose, and that started a brand new chain of learning for me.

I picked up one book after another but it wasn’t just the books: the people I started to meet, the courses I started to take, the experiences of others, everything became a learning curve, and still is to this day.

I’m a forever student. I take inspiration from my mentors writings and their workshops but also from my own children. Their zest for life and determination to do whatever they want to, fuels me to get going and keep chasing my dreams.

21. Leonard Kim

Founder, Influence Tree

leonard-kim 5-hour rule

Um I read Seventeen and Elite Daily and watch cat videos. And every now and then I watch a Ted talk, or read an article about some case study.

When I watch the tv show “Pitch”, I learn how lonely the world is at the top so I hold my friends close. And they hold me back. And we rock around like we’re on a boat.

Oh and sometimes I learn something when I interview someone for Inc.

I’m gonna learn how to mountain bike. But I need a bike first. *cough cough sponsorship cough cough*

22. Anna Hewstan

Founder, Small Gigs Marketing

anna-hewstan 5-hour rule

Although marketing best practices don’t change, the tools and vehicles we use to spread our message and communicate with our audience do. Which is why I stay as informed as possible on the latest trends by following blogs and listening to podcasts about branding, marketing and social media.

Although I do not have a dedicated time for learning, it is an important daily practice for me. I read blogs daily and listen to at least two podcast episodes or attend a webinar each week.

23. Candis Hidalgo

Founder, Smart Mom Blogger

candis-hidalgo 5-hour rule

Since things change so frequently in the online marketing world, my blog and business would be irrelevant if I didn’t make learning a priority. That said, it’s easy to get stuck in “learning mode” and not move on to the next level of taking action. Blogs and YouTube are a never-ending rabbit hole of information that are too easy to get stuck in!

To combat that, I set aside time every week to read, watch & learn everything I’ve bookmarked from the week.

24. Maria Keckler

Founder, MariaKeckler.com

maria-keckler 5-hour rule

Yes, absolutely I set time aside for learning every day.

Why? I love learning, but as a coach trusted to help my clients solve challenges, I subscribe to Abraham Lincoln’s famous words: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

25. Chelsea Stitt

Digital Marketing

chelsea-stitt 5-hour rule

The honest answer to that would have to be NO!

I am a bit spoiled as a writerI’m always researching based on my article topics and I feel like I naturally get learning in that way.

It doesn’t happen everyday…and I’ve never thought about trying to “set aside” a specific hour for learning except during times when I needed to master something new.

26. Snowe Saxman

Founder, SnoweSaxman.com

snowe-saxman 5-hour rule

Yes! Personal and spiritual development is a must! I work on myself and connect with God before I do anything else because what you put into your mind, creates your results.

 

27. Anil Agrawal

Founder, Leadership Focus HQ

anil-agrawal 5-hour rule

I don’t set aside time for learning each day as such. Why not? First, quite frankly, I am in a phase of my life where there are so many things going on in any given day that I simply cannot do it every day!

Instead, here a few things I do to continue learning and “sharpening my saw”:

  • Pretty much everyday I listen to a podcast, an audiobook, a webinar replay, or a Mastermind meeting recording, etc on my way to work
  • Attend 1-2 live conferences every year during which I totally focus on learning as much as I can for those 2-3 days
  • Attend live Meetups that are 0.5 a day to a full day 2-3 times a year

28. Dan Henry

Founder, DanHenry.org

dan-henry 5-hour rule

Yes, because every time I get stuck, I find inspiration in learning, even if it’s something I have already studied!

 

29. Elna Cain

Founder, ElnaCain.com

elna-cain 5-hour rule

I started blogging two years ago, and in that time I’ve learned so much about content marketing, social media and blogger outreach.

Currently, I use the weekends to make time to read blog posts in my industry and take time to find resources to help me grow my freelance and blogging business.

It’s not a lot of time since I do have twin preschoolers, but any little bit counts!

30. Phoebe Mroczek

Host, Mind Your Business Podcast

phoebe-mroczek 5-hour rule

Yes, setting aside time for learning is critical to growth both personally and professionally. However, I believe most people have adapted their learning styles to conform to what society deems appropriate: textbook, courses, videos etc. and that just doesn’t work for everyone.

For me, my learning takes on many shapes, and even that continues to evolve over time.

At the moment, my main source of learning is through podcasts and audiobooks on my morning walks. When I’m saturated from consumption mode, I dive into creation / inspiration mode, which to me looks like meditative music or an upbeat Spotify playlist.

I believe that all new experiences show up as an opportunity to learn, so also being open to that level of spontaneous learning is key.

Conclusion

Now that we’ve heard from 30 successful entrepreneurs, here are a few thoughts to leave you with.

What fascinates me is how every person above has a deep love of learning, but one single strategy doesn’t work for everyone.

I personally agree with Phoebe (#30)– whether or not you are able to devote one hour per day to “study” in the traditional sense is less important. We all learn in different ways and at different rates.

I do believe, however, that every successful person has an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, and they carry that thirst with them all life long.

Do you use the 5-hour rule? Please tweet your response and tag me @maryefern!

Mary is the founder of Persuasion Nation. She loves spending time with her hubby and 3 kids in sunny San Diego, and helping solo entrepreneurs build their own profitable blogs.

8 comments

  1. Prem Sagars says:

    Hey, Mary. Very good and detailed post. We are so much into working our asses for whatever we desire that we forget to actually give ourselves some time to learn… Loved the Post…

  2. Candis says:

    Loved this, Mary! Whether we realize it or not, we’re all learning things every day – even if passively – through all of the media and conversations we consume. But intentional, disciplined learning is so important if you want to continuously improve your life and business. Loved all the insights here, & thanks so much for including me.

    Loving your new blog & can’t wait for more!

    • That’s a great point, Candis. You’ve identified two different types of learning that are important to distinguish:

      1. “Accidental” Learning (the things you learn while going about your day to day activities)
      2. Intentional Learning (the type you make space for)

      The general consensus seems to be that both types of learning are important. For myself, I do a ton of “accidental” learning, but I could definitely use more space for intentional learning.

      In fact, there’s probably a third type of learning that happens while you do NOTHING. Like the problem solving that happens while you sleep or meditate. I could definitely use more of that. 🙂

      Thanks for your contribution, Candis!

  3. Vivian says:

    Hey Mary,

    Great post! I love that there’s a holistic emphasis on putting time aside to learn. If we stop learning it’s sure to be reflected in every other area of our lives. Lovin’ the diverse insight 🙂

  4. Vishal says:

    Lovely comprehensive post Mary. Brilliant insights.

    Especially loved Tyler’s belief that there is no stagnation period, and that one can condition her mind to keep learning. But I’m not quite sure whether constantly filling our minds with information (listening to podcasts while taking walks, as Ian suggests) is beneficial. One of the points in Michael’s 5-hour rule is deliberate practice, where we must implement what we learn. If we spend more time learning in theory and less time implementing, understanding something becomes difficult.

    What are your thoughts?

    • Hi Vishal, that’s a really smart point!

      I think that the daily “deliberate learning” that Ian Chew and Michael Simmons are talking about can also include implementation and practice, or even just meditation.

      As Candis pointed out in her comment, there are different types of learning… sometimes we learn by reading a book or listening to a podcast, but other times we learn by practicing a technique hands-on, or by simply allowing our brain the space and the rest it needs in order to process new information.

      So I agree with you- I think that daily learning needs to be varied and not just interpreted to mean “I need to read my textbook for an hour each day”.

      Thanks for the great insight!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *