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The 5-Hour Rule Used by Bill Gates, Jack Ma and Elon Musk

You just walked in the door from an exhausting day at work. You’re hungry and spent, just wanting to catch your breath for a minute. You grab something to eat and then veg out in front of the TV. The next thing you know, you’ve just binge-watched five episodes of the latest Netflix show.

While that’s okay occasionally — we all need ways to decompress and shut down — this isn’t a healthy habit. That’s why the most successful people in the world spend their free time learning.

It’s not exactly breaking news. During his five-year study of more than 200 self-made millionaires, Thomas Corley found that they don’t watch TV. Instead, an impressive 86 percent claimed they read — but not just for fun. What’s more, 63 percent indicated they listened to audiobooks during their morning commute.

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Productivity expert Choncé Maddox writes, “It’s no secret that successful people read. The average millionaire is said to read two or more books per month.” As such, she suggests everyone “read blogs, news sites, fiction and non-fiction during downtime so you can soak in more knowledge.” If you’re frequently on the go, listen to audiobooks or podcasts.

Maybe you’re thinking: Who has the time to sit down and actually read? Between work and family, it’s almost impossible to find free time. As an entrepreneur and a father, I can relate — but only to an extent. After all, if Barack Obama could fit in time to read while in the White House, what excuse do you have? He even credits books to surviving his presidency.

President Obama is far from the only leader to credit his success to reading. Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Oprah Winfrey, Elon Musk, Mark Cuban and Jack Ma are all voracious readers. As Gates told The New York Times, reading “is one of the chief ways that I learn, and has been since I was a kid.”

So how do they find the time to read daily? They adhere to the five-hour rule.

Related: How to Make a 5-Hour Workday Work for You

Breaking down the five-hour rule

The five-hour rule was coined by Michael Simmons, founder of Empact, who has written about it widely. The concept is wonderfully simple: No matter how busy successful people are, they always spend at least an hour a day — or five hours a work week — learning or practicing. And they do this across their entire career.

Simmons traces this phenomenon back to Ben Franklin, who was constantly setting aside time to learn. Franklin generally did this in the morning, waking up early to read and write. He established personal goals and tracked his results. In the spirit of today’s book clubs, he created a club for artisans and trademen; they’d come together to pursue self-improvement. He also experimented with his new information and asked reflective questions every morning and evening.

Related: 7 Ways Science Proves Early to Bed and Early to Rise Really Works

The five-hour rule’s three buckets 

Today’s successful leaders have embraced Franklin’s five-hour rule by breaking the rule into three buckets.

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