For CEOs, an hour is a long time, whether you think of it as 60 minutes, 3,600 seconds or even 3,600,000 milliseconds. In that time you could take a nap, watch your favourite sports team, take a bubble bath or a number of other activities.
What many people do not know is that an hour a day is the difference between being good at what you do and being great. Like many before me, I subscribe to the five-hour rule.
What is the five-hour rule?
Benjamin Franklin is best known as one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. Along with a number of other people, Franklin helped draft both the Declaration of Independence as well as the Constitution of the United States.
However, he is also known for the use of a successful development strategy that helped him become one of America’s most respected statesmen. Each day, Franklin would invest one hour, five days a week into deliberate learning.
When the young man left school at the age of 10 to work full-time for his soap and candle-making father, he did so with very little skill or knowledge. However, what he did leave with was a love of books. He used this passion to his advantage by investing roughly one hour a day reading on, writing about, and exploring new ideas and concepts.
But Franklin is not the only one to implement the five-hour rule. The likes of Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and Elon Musk all believe that everyday learning can mean the difference between success and failure.
One hour a day five days a week, that’s all it takes.
Trying something different
A CEOs day is typically filled with meetings, phone calls and review processes, which take up much of their time. On top of this, many will work deep into the night in an attempt to up their productivity.
The definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result, or so the saying goes. Instead of looking to squeeze every bit of juice out of the day, the five-hour rule can ensure there is free space in the day for learning and creativity.
So in what ways can business leaders ensure they are staying ahead of the curve? You can break it down into three general areas.
Like Franklin before him, Bill Gates believes books are the best way to build areas of knowledge and expertise. Speaking to the New York Times, he said: ‘Reading is still the main way that I both learn new things and test my understanding.’
Part of the endeavour is looking at new ideas and patterns; some might be business books, articles or even biographies. But the overall aim is to engage with novel ideas, or even strange perspectives, in an attempt to expand your understanding.
Business leaders are like a ship in a storm, they tend to be pulled in a number of directions at any one time. The combination of external and internal forces makes reflecting a difficult action.
However, it can help business leaders answer the salient questions. What’s really important to you? Where do you want to go? What’s the next fresh idea, innovation or concept?
Remember, great ideas are hardly ever developed at a desk in front of a computer.
What this means is consciously doing things that take you out of your comfort zone. Whether this means meeting new people, talking with new suppliers or businesses, the point is to experience new stimuli.
A really effective company will always interact with weird and strange people. By doing this business leaders can ensure they are not only experimenting with new ideas, concepts and process but also have an eye for the future.
By spending one hour a day on one of the pursuits above, business leaders can not only work on themselves, but also experiment with new ideas. You may think you’re too busy, you do not have time to do this, but in fact, business leaders should think of this as an investment, not a chore.
By: TEC Chair, CEO mentor and coach Jerry Kleeman