Career

Is The 7-Hour Rule The Secret To Getting Ahead In The Workplace?

“I want to learn to code… and speak Italian. Oh, but what about that guitar I was going to learn to play six months ago that’s now gathering dust in the spare room? And there’s that stack of unread books on my bedside table…” 

Sound familiar? In the age of self-growth and the side hustle, it feels like there are just never enough hours in the day to do all the things we want to do. Plus, let’s be honest, after a long day, most of us just want to flop onto the sofa and watch Netflix — not get knee-deep in the latest finance book.

That said, we all know how important learning is, not just for our career progression, but also for our own personal development. After all, you know what they say — if you’re not learning, then you’re not growing! 

Luckily, you don’t have to block out your entire weekend to get ahead in your career and life. One Career Girl Daily writer has a learning hack that’s so achievable, yet oh so effective. Enter, the seven-hour rule.

What is the seven-hour rule?

The premise of the seven-hour rule is simple – you spend one hour per day learning a new skill or furthering one you already have. That’s it. There’s no complex formula and no expensive resources required. Although we’re all busy, most of us can carve out an hour per day – it could be during your commute, in your lunch break or just before you go to bed. 

The writer, Elizabeth Smith, says she learned the trick back in her teenage years.

“My teacher was talking to us about the importance of going home and spending one hour an evening learning,” she says. “At the time, I laughed. But now, I take it a lot more seriously.”

Why follow the seven-hour rule?

The concept behind the seven-hour rule isn’t actually anything new. Successful people like Bill Gates, Oprah and Elon Musk have long sworn by the five-hour rule (the same thing, but five days per week). So, of course you could do five hours of learning per week and it would still be beneficial. But are any of us really as busy as Bill Gates, Oprah and Elon Musk? If they can manage five, we say most of us can shoot for seven.

Although it’s not much of a time investment each day, those hours add up. According to Josh Kaufman, author of the Personal MBA, it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in a high competitive field — but only 20 hours to go from knowing nothing to “pretty good”. That means you can become a semi-decent photographer, cook, DJ or anything else you want in less than three weeks. Pretty good motivation, right?

The benefits of additional learning go beyond just picking up a cool new skill. It’ll actually make you better at your current job, and make you more employable for your next. In a study of more than 50,000 learners who completed online courses on Coursera, 72% reported career benefits such as doing their current job more effectively, finding a new job, or receiving a raise.

While learning a new skill might not scream “chill” quite like watching back-to-back episodes of Billions, it can also help with workplace stress. So many of us become so wrapped up in whatever is going on in the office that we forget that there’s a big, wide world outside of it. Doing non-work related learning helps shift the focus and take your mind off work.

Then, there’s the long-term benefits. Ever heard the expression ‘use it or lose it?’ In elderly people, learning a new skill is recommended to increase the grey matter of the brain and maintains strong cognitive function. But you’re never too young to actively work on keeping your brain and memory sharp by learning something new.

What should you learn?

With countless podcasts, online courses, books and apps available, there’s no limit to what you can learn (and how!) Some skills that are transferrable across most industries are social media marketing, website design and copywriting — but you could also simply pick up a new hobby or work on developing your life skills. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something you enjoy! 


Emma Norris is a Sydney-based freelance writer and the owner of copywriting business, Content in the City. When she’s not playing with words, she’s either doing pushups or stuffing her face with pizza. You can follow her on Instagram @emmajnorris92.