Success has an elusive definition that is relative and personal. One person’s success could be graduating from high school, and another person’s success may be obtaining a master’s degree. Regardless of the definition of success, working towards it always involves the same processes. To become successful at anything requires planning and effort. There is a five-hour rule, implemented by some of the world’s leading companies, that can fast track becoming better at what you do now and achieving your future goals faster. This rule involves spending one hour of every weekday doing something that educates and betters oneself. While there are many ways to educate and self-improve, the activities done for an hour should focus on becoming better in the aspect of life you want to achieve success in. Experts have narrowed down the activities that should fill the hour to reading, thinking, and experimenting. How does an hour of these activities correspond to success?

Read

Bill gates was not always a billionaire and Oprah was not always a media mogul. Both of these people started from the bottom and rose up to the top of their respective industries. No one becomes legendary without truly knowing what they are doing. There are plenty of soft skills — like networking and the ability to be personable — that aid a person in her path to success, but no amount of personality or contacts can substitute for concrete knowledge.

Spend at least some of your five hours per week reading about the field you are in. Use this time to get a thorough understanding of the current landscape of the industry. Understanding the now will help you to accurately see where the industry is headed and how you can best position yourself for future success. For example, a decade ago, genetic medical coding was virtually unheard of. There are still no schools that teach it and no credentials that a medical coder can earn to prove their knowledge of this small sector of the larger field of medical coding. Some coders observed that genetic testing was becoming increasingly important and common in the medical field, and they taught themselves how to be genetic coders. Now, those few coders who have this incredibly in-demand skill can set their own salaries and schedules. By understanding the field and becoming educated through personal reading, these regular employees turned themselves into industry experts.

Think

It is important to take time to reflect on the work you are doing, the challenges you are facing, and what could be improved. An hour is a very long time to think, but this focused, deep thinking can help a person to think critically about her own work. By studying one’s own work through thought, a person can identify flaws before management brings them to her attention. Sometimes, thinking through a problem can help solve it. Mentally solving a problem rather than working through it saves valuable time. Most employees have degrees, credentials, and certification. At a certain level, most employees also have the same amount of experience. The one aspect that can set one employee apart from another is their mental capability. Taking time to think about work on a regular basis improves critical thinking skills and personal mental prowess.

In an effort to produce maximum results in minimum time, corporate culture has become riddled with the idea that working long hours and having an overeager, can-do attitude is best. In reality, those that stop and think before they act are capable of producing better work the first time than those that plunge headfirst into every assignment without a real plan. Thinking will give your work an added level of quality that coworkers who are always focused on getting something done can never achieve.

Experiment

A person who is truly successful cannot be stagnant. Successful people need to think outside of the box and be willing to take risks. Spending an hour experimenting can develop these skills, even in a person who does not initially have them. Even if you are an entry-level employee with no authority to implement changes, experimenting can give you the confidence to do so when your time comes.

It is not always practical for an experiment to take the form of actually doing something. Sometimes, experimenting can simply be building models or plugging in numbers to see how something would work in reality. Before beginning to sell a new product, a store owner can use her experimenting time to research the product, get an understanding of the target customer and run numbers on the profit margins. Businesses and careers thrive on change and newness. Experimenting on a regular basis makes change less intimidating and helps a person learn to practice how to successfully implement changes. A person who experiments regularly becomes a more innovative thinker with confidence in her own ideas. These are the kind of people who can lead businesses.

A successful person has knowledge, thinks critically, and is able to thrive in a changing environment. A person who spends five hours per week divided between reading, thinking and experimenting will improve all of these skills on a regular basis. One person might spend all five hours reading while another may spend all five thinking. There is no rule about exactly how you divide your five hours. It depends on your industry and your goals. The five-hour rule simultaneously makes you the kind of employee who gets promotions and the kind of employee who can quit and start a successful business.