The 5-hour rule

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5 hour rule

Several months ago, I read an article by Michael Simmons about the 5-hour rule that I found really inspiring. Here are the key ideas under this concept.

What is the 5-hour rule exactly?

According to the five-hour rule, you should spend at least 5 hours every week learning. This rule has been followed by many successful people from Benjamin Franklin who planned a hour of learning each day to Bill Gates who read a book a week during his career.

Why is it more relevant than ever?

According to Simmons, „not learning at least 5 hours per week (the 5-hour rule) is the smoking of the 21st century“
Why does he say that? Simply because we are now living in a very fast changing world. New technologies such as artificial intelligence suppress the need of companies for simple, low-paying jobs and create new jobs that did not exist before and that require specific skills. In this new economy, knowledge is the new money.

What does it exactly mean to spend 5 hours a week learning?

What is meant is deliberate learning. You can divide your learning time in three big categories: read, reflect, experiment. The three categories are linked. Reading brings you new ideas and information. Reflection helps you to organize these new ideas, integer them to your thinking system and find yet new ideas. Experimentation enables you to test ideas and check whether they make sense or not. This is an important point because we often see learning as a mere accumulation of information or facts that you acquire.

The limits of the 5-hour rule concept

Learning is of course a very important and valuable use of our time and the 5-hour rule has the advantage of making you aware of how much time you spend learning. However, some aspects of the concept can be criticized.
Indeed, the concept is working very well for someone who is learning about STEM subjects: you define the topics that will get important in the next years, learn a lot about them and can then apply this knowledge to develop your career.
But what about other types of knowledge, like humanities? If you consider the examples of successful people using the 5-hour rules that appear in the articles about that concept, the reading of novels seems to be a widespread hobby and definitely a part of their learning routine. I love reading and try to read as many books as I can. However, some of the books I read are really just for fun. Reading a book does not always mean you are deliberately learning something. It depends of the nature of the book, its quality but also your own learning goals.

The 5-hour rule implies a personalized learning strategy

To be really effective, the 5-hour rule must be sustained by a personalized learning strategy. You do need one if you want to learn efficiently.

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