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Benjamin Franklin, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk and Warren Buffett have five-hour rule in common

Founding father Benjamin Franklin was a renown polymath, and he didn't get to that point by lazing about. In fact, he became a scientist, writer and so much more by embracing a simple rule – one which many business leaders of today have implemented into their busy schedules.
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His daily schedule was no doubt tweaked, reworked and planned over in a continuous attempt to structure his days so they followed a routine that worked for him. And it turns out that devoting one hour to distraction every weekday could radically improve both productivity and innovation in the long run. This time was used to learn a new skill, read, write, determine goals and even experiment.

In the modern era, this pursuit of extra knowledge and reflection time has been dubbed the five-hour rule – and has become imbedded in the schedules of highly successful entrepreneurs. Take, for example, Warren Buffett, who uses five hours a day to read five newspapers and 500 pages of corporate reports.

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Needless to say, many believe that by adopting the rule you can not only work smarter, but propel yourself to new heights of success as well.

During the 18th century, the great thinkers of the time corralled at coffeehouses, suggested author Steven Johnson. Here they bounced new and experimental ideas off each other, and it only took a brief walk away from their usual workplaces to possibly gain a new perspective.

This is further highlighted by the author of “Eat, Pray, Love,” who explained that while struggling to draft the initial copy, she took to gardening each day. Elizabeth Gilbert said: “I was pulling up the spent tomato vines when – quite suddenly, out of nowhere – I realised exactly how to fix my book. I washed my hands, returned to my desk, and within three months I’d completed the final version.”

Meanwhile, Justine Musk, author and wife of Elon Musk, suggested the dedicated hour wasn’t necessarily about pursuing a hobby or conversation to garner yourself a eureka moment, but rather a need to sate a never-ending curiosity.

“Shift your focus away from what you want (a billion dollars) and get deeply, intensely curious about what the world wants and needs,” she explained. “Ask yourself what you have the potential to offer that is so unique and compelling and helpful that no computer could replace you. Then develop that potential.”

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As Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, once said, the most important thing for any of us to be in our jobs is curious.

The rule is also there to prevent you from burnout, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella alleged. He defined himself as a life-long learner and said: “I fundamentally believe that if you are not learning new things, you stop doing great and useful things.”

Likewise, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is known for dedicating himself to learning or achieving something new. In 2015 his New Year’s resolution was to read a book every other week and post his selections on Facebook. He also set himself the goal of learning Mandarin and later gave an interview in the language.

When it comes to the opinion of chess grandmaster and world-champion martial artist Josh Waitzkin, he explained the purpose of specifically leaving an hour of free time each day enabled you to gain greater understanding of something new, and in so doing raised your awareness of the world and heightened your intellectuality.

“I have built a life around having empty space for the development of my ideas for the creative process,” he said. “And for the cultivation of a physiological state which is receptive enough to tune in very, very deeply to people I work with. In the creative process, it’s so easy to drive for efficiency and take for granted the really subtle internal work that it takes to play on that razor’s edge.”

You have that Eureka moment when you realise your creative idea has the power to change the world. However, only few of us are able to successfully execute them and that makes all the difference.

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About Author

Shané Schutte

Shané Schutte is a senior reporter at Real Business, with a particular specialism in employment and business law, human resources, information technology and sales/marketing.

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