Revolutionise Your Leadership – the 5-hour Rule

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Are you truly dedicated to constantly learning? It will help future proof your career! 

Have you heard of the five-hour rule? 

It’s a system utilised by many well-known leaders to enhance their learning. From Mark Zuckerberg to Bill Gates, the world’s smartest – and arguably busiest – people find one hour a day each working week and set it aside for deliberate learning:  

  • Bill Gates reads 50 books per year 
  • Mark Zuckerberg reads at least one book every two weeks 
  • Warren Buffett spends five to six hours per day reading five newspapers and 500 pages of corporate reports 
  • Oprah Winfrey credits books with much of her success: “Books were my pass to personal freedom. 

Learning is the single best investment of our time that we can makeAs Benjamin Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” 

Learning is fundamental to achieving success in today’s knowledge economy, and yet it is still the exception rather than the rule. But once you understand the value of knowledge, dedicating yourself to constant learning is the key to achieving your full potential as a leader. 

It is predicted that in the new decade, individuals who work hard in their career but fail to schedule in time for learning, will become the new “at-risk” groupThat is, they risk remaining stuck on the lower rung of global competition, and even potentially losing their jobs to automation in the future. 

So, how can the five-hour rule work for you, ensuring you continue to grow your knowledge base and future-proof your career aspirations? 

Here are my top five ways to embrace the five-hour rule, harness your learning strategyand increase your leadership skills. 

We encourage you to set aside time for constant and lifelong learning to help future-proof your career aspirations! 



1. Make Time For Learning  – Make It A Heartfelt Priority  

In a busy world, it’s tempting to make every second countmaximising every minute of your working day to get tasks completed and implement the strategies to take your business forward 

One tip to help you create space for learning is to timebox. That is, to move your to-do list into a calendar system. 

This enables you to free up time by creating an effective schedule of what needs to be done in your working day and when it needs to be accomplished. Additionally, it allows you to block off time in your calendar for the all-important learning you want to do. 

Finding the time to learn, no matter how busy you are or overwhelmed you feel, is critical to enabling you to self-develop and learn new things, which will expand your knowledge base and increase your leadership skills. 


2. Learn How To Learn – Even If You Are Busy 

Once you’ve made the time, the next step is to make sure you’re learning the right things, and in the right way for you. 

You need to engage with your learning, and this will only happen if the learning system you choose works for you, includes content you’re interested in, and makes you feel committed to the investment you’re making. 

So, finding the right mix is crucial.  

Learning can take various forms – from reading to TedTalks, conversations to classes, observation to online instruction. What works best for you is something you will discover with practice.  

The critical element is to incorporate learning time into your day, so you keep your learning levels constant. 

Remember to investigate ROI in the learning you commit to. This ‘financial’ way of looking at learning should include making sure what you learn is: 

  • relevant for you and your leadership role 
  • keeping pace with technological change 
  • keeping you engaged and interested 
  • providing the opportunity for reflection 

All of these factors add to the ‘investment’ you are making in your knowledge. 


3. Plan Your Learning  – It’s Crucial  

What do you want to learn?  

Remember that the value of knowledge isn’t staticbut changes. Its value is directly related to conditions at the time. For instance, as technologies reshape the future, there will be a deficit of individuals with related skills. So, relevancy is crucial when planning your learning journey: invest in skills that will increase your leadership ability and secure personal growth and employability for the future. 

Alongside practical skillsits critical to develop soft skills such as empathy, influence, cognitive flexibility and communication. Experts predict that while future technological developments will replace more general jobs and lead to automation of basic tasks, soft skills will become sought after in the future, so by developing your exclusively “human” skills, you can ensure you are future-proof.   

For leaders, the ability to collaborate, think critically, solve complex problems, remain curious and use their judgment in decision making, will be increasingly valuable as workplaces become more automated. 


4. Take Time To Review  – Make Your Learning Stick 

Reviewing what you have learnt and assimilating new ideas is the key to acquiring practical learning outcomes: those ‘aha’ moments that often lead to creative breakthroughs in leadership. 

Additionally, continually reviewing your learning will improve memory retentionembed new ideas in your long-term memory and ensure what you have learnt is there for recall when required. You can find out strategies for successfully reviewing your learning in this article from MindTools. 


5. Test Your Ideas – Reinforce Your Learnings  

Applying the knowledge you‘ve gained in reallife scenarios with also reinforce your learning process 

Note new ideas as you read – connect to other ideas you’ve had (or read about) and then use practical opportunities to apply and test these ideas with your team. 

Changes you may wish to make, based on your new knowledge, don’t have to be big, initially. Just small tweaks here and there, to see how an experiment works. This will provide you with the opportunity to learn and test your ideas out without making significant changes for your team. 

Testing theories out in this way should also include taking the time to get feedback on what works and what doesn’t in practical termsgiving you further insights into areas that could be beneficial to your team, and where your skillset and ideas could benefit from additional learning and understanding.  



Excellent leadership is about coaching othershelping your team grow and develop, supporting them in their own learning journeyand nurturing and encouraging them along the way.  

Great teachers and leaders know that to be effective, they need to invest in learning too. Lifelong learning is the key to understanding your team, motivating others, inviting innovation and allowing you to express yourself, and therefore lead with greater clarity and ability. 

By practising the five-hour rule, you will be on the path to great leadership. 



Tom Hallett 


About Excel Communications  


Excel Communications  is a learning and development consultancy based near London in the UK. For more than 30 years we have been collaborating with clients across the globe. 

Partnering with Excel empowers you to evolve your people and business, by fuelling a love for learning. We work with you to create unforgettable, customised learning experiences to achieve your vision of success and growth, with tangible results.

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