Learn Constantly to Achieve Success – The Five Hour Rule

Learning new things is the best investment you can use your time on. So, instead of obsessing on becoming productive with routine tasks today, focus on learning. Learning pays back in the long run by opening new possibilities and making yourself more valuable for employers and society. Most successful people have committed to lifelong learning, from Benjamin Franklin to Bill Gates and Elon Musk.

The “Five Hour Rule” says that you should set aside at least five hours a week for learning (one hour per weekday).

Ways to learn constantly:

  • Dedicate time for learning and thinking.
  • Set goals for learning and improving yourself, not just tasks and achievements.
  • Read. Concentrate on reading e.g. books, instead of skimming the latest blog posts.
  • Be curious. Diversify yourself. Be curious about what the world needs and wants.
  • Experiment. Test what is possible in your field. Learn from your experiments.
  • Treat every event as an opportunity to improve. Don’t settle on automation and doing “okay”, but figure out ways to learn, experiment and improve.
  • Practice deliberately. Do new things, challenge yourself and get feedback.
  • Solve problems as you face them, instead of leaving that for later. Learn from the problems.
  • Stepping away from your normal work and location might stimulate thinking. Go for a walk, do some gardening or work in a coffee shop.

Never stop learning. Commit to this.


Michael Simmons: Why Constant Learners All Embrace the 5-Hour Rule

Empact: Why the Smartest People Are Constant Learners

Elle Kaplan: How to Use the “5 Hour Rule” to Radically Improve Your Intelligence and Success

12 Tips to Remember What You Read

Just reading isn’t enough if you want to use that information later on. These tips help you to remember what you read.

Read with a purpose
Think why you are reading, and how the text helps you to reach your goal. This makes it easier to see the parts that are important for you.

Use the SQ3R method
SQ3R is an active reading and note-taking method that helps remembering the key points of a text.

First skim the material
Look at headings, images and captions, and read the abstract. This helps to get a sense of the whole material and subject.

Focus on blocks of text
Instead of reading word-by-word, learn to focus on larger blocks of the text. Besides making reading faster, this also helps understanding the whole.

Highlight, but not too much
Highlight only key words and ideas. After reading few paragraphs or pages, try to remember the key ideas. Then check your highlights to see if you remembered all correctly.

Think in pictures
Create a mental image of the content. Or try to experience being a part of the situation, instead of observing it from outside. Both require understanding the content and help in memorizing. Mind maps are also good for making connections between concepts.

Every few pages or after finishing a chapter, stop and think what you just read. Ask questions about the content. (What this means? How this helps me? What wasn’t said? How this can be applied? Where this has connections to?) Do you have real-world problems to solve? If not, find some from textbooks or old exams.

Explain the concept to someone. Summarize the text with your own words. If you can’t, re-read.

Make flashcards, paper or electronic. They are good for memorizing facts.

Have a break when you can’t concentrate
Stop reading for a moment after you have reached your attention span. (Typically 15 minutes for hard content.) Learn to concentrate longer.

Rehearse after reading
When finishing your reading session, rehearse again as instructed above. Repeat twice during the day, and once per day for a few days.

Read the text again. This not only helps you to remember, but also to understand better (since you have a sense of the whole) and to correct your (possible) misinterpretations.


Bill Klemm: 8 Tips To Remember What You Read

Quora answers on How can I read quickly but still understand and retain everything that I read?

Remember What You Read by Using SQ3R

Remembering what you have read is crucial if you try to learn something. Just reading through the text passively is not usually enough. Active reading means that the reader actively thinks about what (s)he’s reading, and marks & makes notes of key ideas.

SQ3R is an active reading-comprehension method that helps remembering the key points. It converts your notes to Q&A format. SQ5R was introduced by Francis Pleasant Robinson in his 1946 book Effective Study.  The name comes from the words Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review.

Skim through the text: look at headings, pictures, charts, summary etc. (If studying for a test, check also what the teacher regards important.)

Turn the headings and other material into questions, and write them down. You may also create more generic or your own questions, depending on the situation (e.g. the reason you are reading).

Read & Recite
Read the text. After each paragraph, try to answer the questions. Write down the answers and key points using your own words. This forces you to engage with the text, instead of just passive reading.

Read the questions and try to answer them. Try to remember the key points. Check the answers from your notes. If you have trouble remembering, review your notes and repeat later.

Cornell Note Taking System

Cornell notes is a structured note-taking method, that makes SQ3R’s review process easier. Notes are arranged on a (paper) sheet:

  • Questions on the left
  • Notes on the right
  • Summary at the bottom

To review, just cover the notes and summary.


John Ramos: Guide to Effective Note Taking – SQ3R and Cornell

Virginia Tech: SQ3R – Reading/Study System

Saddleback College: SQ5R (PDF)

Learn Efficiently With Deliberate Practice

Expertise it not dependent on talent, but largely the result of efficient practice. Merely performing a skill multiple times is not an effective way of learning, because learning has more to do with how one practices. Deliberate practice is a way of learning as efficiently as possible.

“… the differences between expert performers and normal adults reflect a life-long period of deliberate effort to improve performance in a specific domain.” [1]

Deliberate practice has five essential components:

  • Have a Goal. Be specific on what you are learning. Split large and vague skills (e.g. be a better artist) into concrete chunks (e.g. learn to draw portraits, understand perspective…).
  • Be motivated. You must be motivated make and effort to improve. Practice isn’t inherently fun, but the results are rewarding.
  • Customized to challenge, but not overburden you. Take into account what you already know and can do. Understand your weaknesses and practice those areas. Practice at more challenging levels as you learn.
  • Immediate feedback. Get feedback on how well you did and what to improve. It will make learning much more efficient.
  • Repeat. Repeat the same or similar tasks. Becoming an expert will take time and perseverance, but don’t burn yourself out either. Make a schedule.

In the end, motivation dictates who will become an expert.


K. Anders Ericsson, Ralf Th. Krampe, and Clemens Tesch-Romer: The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance

Corbett Barr, Expert Enough: Deliberate Practice

Embrace Failure to Develop Personally

For professional success, people usually make themselves known (or brand themselves) as:

  • Something unique
  • Recognizable by others
  • Better or more distinctive than others
  • Someone who is repeating success, without failures

This way you will become a sought-after specialist for your niche.

But then again, you may get bored of doing the same thing over and over again. It can also make you stuck in your niche, and not develop yourself further.

For personal development, failure is the key for learning. You should try out things that you are unsure about, because that makes you

  • Aware of what you are able to do
  • Discover and learn new things

So, embrace failure.


Milton Glaser: On the Fear of Failure