How To Live By The 5 Hour Rule

Life at Fifty Acres

For many of us, the success of each working day is measured by how much we get done. Every second we’re not working is a second wasted, so we keep our heads down, our eyes on the screen, and distractions far away, in the hope of maximising the number of tasks we tick off our To Do lists.

But it turns out that devoting just one hour of purposeful distraction every weekday can actually do more good than rushing from meeting to meeting to improve our productivity.

The five-hour rule, adopted by Benjamin Franklin, flips the 90:10, work:learning ratio we’ve all come to know, by focusing on learning first. The rule reflects the very simple idea that, over time, the smartest and most successful people are those who are constant and deliberate learners, who push their knowledge and abilities to the limit.

While devoting one hour a day to learning may sound like an impossible task for the ever-busy working population, it’s very difficult to deny the long-term benefits that come with constantly pushing ourselves to learn more and improve our skills.

So, in the spirit of self-investment, we’ve listed five different ways we can all adopt the five-hour rule into our daily schedules:

  1. Create slack in your day. Sometimes stepping away from work is all it takes for a bolt of inspiration to strike. While lounging around in a park or sipping coffee in a café may not sound like work to most of us, the truth is, many of the world’s best and most innovative ideas were born in these very settings. Stepping out of the office and making time for projects outside of work can help you better yourself, give you perspective and even lead to exciting new insights.
  1. Be relentlessly curious. What sets successful entrepreneurs apart from everyone else is their unending curiosity. They have a hunger to learn, to question, to search for better answers, and to propose new possibilities. Choose a topic or area that interests you, and use an hour of your day to learn more about it or develop your skills in it. Look for ways to diversify yourself, whether that be through research, seminars, conferences or even through podcasts. There’s a world of knowledge out there, so there’s nothing worse than limiting yourself to what you already know.
  1. Experiment. Experimenting is an important entrepreneurial endeavour. Whatever your business or craft might be, take the time to test the waters of what is possible in your field. While not all experiments will work, the lessons that come with failure will leave you more knowledgeable in the long run.
  1. Read. One of the best ways to apply the five-hour rule into your day is by reading. Whether it be a book, an article, a discussion, reading helps you learn new things, test your understanding, shape and inform your decision making and discover new ways of thinking.
  1. Develop your enthusiasm for learning. Stepping outside of your usual routine and daring to be challenged is what the five-hour rule is all about. Incorporating learning into your everyday activities requires a change in habit, but it’s one that’s worth the effort. People who don’t push themselves to continuously learn fail to come up with new ideas, struggle to obtain new perspectives, and grow stale in their skills. By committing to be a lifelong learner, you commit to bettering yourself and your work, which is useful not only to yourself, but to your team, your business and your clients as well. 

At the end of the day, our professional careers aren’t all about racing from meeting to meeting and maximising the number of tasks we tick off our To Do lists. While these habits are vital to achieving short-term goals, taking the time to improve yourself is by far the wisest investment you can make in the long-term. Adopting the five-hour rule can help you work smarter, live better and propel yourself to new heights of success, so what’s stopping you?