Some of the world’s most successful people follow a simple rule. And all it takes is one hour of learning per day.
What would you do if we told you that some of the world’s leading entrepreneurs all follow a simple rule?
You’d jump on board, right? Adopting the habits of billionaires can go a long way to shaping your own business success.
Here’s the good news.
That rule exists.
Best of all, it only requires you to dedicate five hours every week to it.
This rule is so powerful that people like Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Jack Ma use it constantly.
The secret lies in deliberate learning.
What is Deliberate Learning?
Deliberate learning involves taking a concentrated approach to learning new things.
The idea is to set aside an hour per day up to a total of five hours every week. During that time, you’ll focus entirely on learning new things.
Here’s the important part. You cannot allow yourself to get distracted by anything else during these periods. Working does not count as deliberate learning. That’s because when working you’re usually doing something that you’re familiar with.
With this rule, you’re aiming to use your time to learn something new.
Deliberate learning can take several forms. Ideally, you’ll mix these different techniques during the course of the week.
Technique #1 – Reading
Warren Buffett famously sets aside 80% of each day for reading.
You don’t have to dedicate quite so much time to it when using the five-hour rule.
But as Bill Gates says: “Reading is still the main way that I both learn new things and test my understanding.” Unsurprisingly, Gates reads about 50 books each year.
He’s not the only one. Elon Musk famously told reporters that he learned how to build rockets due to reading. And Alibaba founder Jack Ma says: “Reading can give you a good head start; this is often what your peers cannot obtain. Compared to others, readers are more likely to know other industries’ strategies and tactics.”
Reading is one of the best ways to absorb new knowledge. Select books that cover topics that you have little familiarity with. It’s important that you read to your current level too. There’s no point in tackling the advanced aspects of a subject if you don’t understand the basics.
Set yourself some reading goals. You may aim to read a chapter every day or set yourself a target of a certain number of books per month.
Carry your book with you at all times so that it’s ready to use whenever you need it. The ready availability of eBooks make them particularly useful for this purpose.
Technique #2 – Reflection
Reading equips you with the information. But it’s not the only technique you’ll use as part of the five-hour rule.
You have to take time to reflect on what you’ve learned. This is a crucial technique as focusing all of your energy on consuming information can overwhelm you. There will come a time that you can’t take any new information in because your brain’s overloaded.
Structure your reflection time in much the same way as you structure your reading time. Again, you want to avoid any distractions. Consider keeping a notepad handy so you can jot down your thoughts about the subjects you read about. Think about lessons you’ve learned over the course of the week and how you may apply them to your work and life.
Reflection allows you to come up with ways to put what you learn into practice.
Technique #3 – Experimentation
This is the practical aspect of deliberate learning.
Once you’ve come up with some ideas based around what you’ve learned, it’s time to test them out. After all, you can’t know if an idea will work until you put it into practice.
Set aside some time each week to try something new. An experiment could be as simple as changing a part of your routine at home. Or, it could be as complex as creating a new product for your industry.
The key is that it’s something practical that’s based on your reading and reflection.
This is where true innovation comes from. Experimenting with new ideas means you don’t get stuck into a routine of doing the same things constantly.
Finally, don’t fear failure. In fact, it’s likely that many, if not most, of your experiments will fail. That’s just part of the learning process. Take what you learn from your experimentation and reflect on it. You may come up with new ideas and concepts that could turn the next experiment into a success.
The Steps of Becoming a Deliberate Learner
The five-hour rule sounds simple in theory.
But in practice, you’re going to face a lot of issues that could lead to your failure to use it properly. Work and life have a habit of getting in the way when you’re trying to dedicate yourself to something.
You need to train yourself to become a deliberate learner. Dedication and focus are the keys.
To help you along, here are some deliberate learning steps that you can take to make this technique more effective.
Step #1 – Motivate Yourself
If you have no reason to learn something new, you’re not going to dedicate yourself to it.
This is where setting goals for yourself comes in handy. Think about how the book you’re reading could prove useful to your future endeavours. Again, you can follow Elon Musk’s example here. He had a goal of building a rocket. As such, his use of the five-hour rule focused on reading books related to the topic. From there he could reflect and experiment until he formed the basics of what we now know as SpaceX.
Define your purpose. Reading for the sake of it may not get you anywhere. It’s likely that you’ll see your learning as a chore, rather than something that you can actually use. That means you’ve wasted an hour of your day instead of using that time to improve.
Step #2 – Don’t Mix Work With Learning
There’s no denying that you learn new things at work all of the time.
But that’s not deliberate learning. Often, what you learn is in direct service to the job that you’re doing. For example, you may react to a bad situation, thus discovering how to prevent that situation in the future.
That’s important, but it’s not a way to fuel innovation. You won’t come up with new ideas if you mistake your work for deliberate learning.
Think of it like this. You spend 40 hours per week learning. But during all of that time, you’re just focused on the problems that relate to your job. That means you’re not giving yourself the time needed to actually develop new ideas.
This rule requires more specificity than simply turning up to work and hoping you’ll learn something. It involves creating a learning routine that can help you break your working routine.
Define your learning goals and dedicate your time to them. Switch off the phone, stop checking emails, and absorb yourself fully into the task.
Step #3 – Improvement Over Productivity
Your productivity plays a huge role in your career success.
But it’s not the only thing that you should focus on. In fact, the five-hour rule specifically pulls you out of the “productivity first” mindset.
The aim here is to think about how you can improve yourself rather than your performance. Focusing on productivity means you’re putting restrictions on how you learn. You’ll focus all of your efforts on work rather than innovation.
It’s a difficult distinction to make. Learning with the aim of improving yourself may not come with immediate benefits.
But it’s a crucial aspect of this rule. The things you learn with this technique should help you to develop new ideas. You can focus your work time on figuring out how to make your existing processes more productive.
The idea is to escape your comfort zone so that you can learn something new.
Step #4 – Create a Schedule
You can’t take a haphazard approach to deliberate learning.
If you assume you’ll find the time, you’ll find yourself missing days out. You may end up thinking something else requires your attention.
Much like exercise, the rule requires dedication. In fact, you could even class this form of learning as a workout for your mind.
Create a schedule that outlines the exact hour of each day that you’ll set aside for learning. Consistent practice of the rule is the only way that you’re going to make it work for you.
Moreover, you can build from this schedule. As well as setting time aside, you can figure out what you’ll do with that time. For example, you may set aside the first two hours of the week for reading, with the next hour spent on reflection. You can then dedicate the final two hours to experimentation.
That’s a microcosm of the rule. What you’re trying to learn may require you to spend much more time reading and reflecting before you can act.
But the point is that you’re building a structure into your learning. Without a schedule, you’re just grabbing time when it becomes available. In the end, you’ll lose focus and stop actively creating time for learning.
Step #5 – Remember to Recover
There’s a reason why this is the five-hour rule rather than the seven-hour rule.
Your brain needs time to recover. Overworking yourself leads to burnout, which is the exact opposite of what you want to achieve. Your motivation tanks when you burn out, which could prevent you from continuing with your learning.
Let’s come back to the exercise comparison again. You need to give your muscles some time to recover, repair, and process the effects of exercise. If you don’t, they never reach their full potential.
The same goes for your brain. Deliberate learning requires consistent practice. But you’re also completely focused during these one-hour periods. That takes its toll.
As such, make sure you use the weekend to relax. It may even be worth setting aside the other two hours of the week specifically for activities that don’t tax your mind.
The Final Word
This simple technique has helped some of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs to achieve success.
But it requires dedication and focus. Don’t approach deliberate learning with a haphazard attitude. You won’t stick with it if you’re not dedicated to it. Understand that you’re trying to grow and learn new things that may help you in all aspects of your life.
Get it right and you’ll develop ideas that you may never have thought of through work alone.
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