5-Hour Rule: How Deliberate Learning & Practice Will Radically Improve Your Success

Mahatma Gandhi wore many hats. He was, of course, the freedom fighter, we all know about, and he was also a lawyer by profession. But many people ignore the fact, that he was also a prolific writer and a voracious reader. Throughout his life, he consistently invested an hour a day in ‘deliberate’ learning, which would today be described by some as his 5-hour rule.

Successful people like Gandhi, despite being extremely busy, set aside at least an hour a day (or five hours a week) over their entire career for activities that could be classified as deliberate practice or learning. This phenomenon is the 5-Hour Rule.

According to Michael Simmons, a columnist from Forbes, co-founder of Empact and best-selling author mentions in his article in INC. titled “Why Constant Learners All Embrace the 5-Hour Rule”, that the 5-hour rule falls into three categories: Reading, Reflection, and Experimentation.


  • Oprah Winfrey credits books with much of her success: “Books were my pass to personal freedom.” She has shared her reading habit with the world via her book club.
  • Mark Cuban reads more than three hours every day.
  • Arthur Blank, co-founder of Home Depot, reads two hours a day.
  • Billionaire entrepreneur David Rubenstein reads six books a week.
  • Dan Gilbert, self-made billionaire, and owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, reads one to two hours a day.


Other times, the 5-hour rule takes the form of reflection and thinking time.

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong makes his senior team spend four hours per week just thinking. Jack Dorsey is a serial wanderer. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner schedules two hours of thinking time per day. Brian Scudamore, the founder of the $250 million company O2E Brands, spends 10 hours a week just thinking.


Finally, the 5-hour rule takes the form of rapid experimentation.

Throughout his life, Ben Franklin set aside time for experimentation, masterminding with like-minded individuals, and tracking his virtues. Google famously allowed employees to experiment with new projects during 20 percent of their work time. Facebook encourages experimentation through Hack-a-Months. The biggest example of experimentation might be Thomas Edison’s. Even though he was a genius, Edison approached new inventions with humility.

For many, their professional life is measured by how much they get done, in the stipulated period of time, without giving a thought about their overall improvement. The 5-hour rule flips the equation by focusing on learning first.

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