Recently, something heartbreaking happened to me: While crammed into a middle seat on a flight from Denver to D.C., I realized that I may never become a great investor.

Tired from a long week, and bored out of my mind, I ignored the more sensible reading material I'd brought along and picked up the in-flight magazine. Before long, I stumbled across an advertisement -- and a troubling fact.

Wasted opportunities
"Over 92% of people who own exercise equipment and 88% of people who own health club memberships do not exercise," the ad stated. The more I read that line, the less possible it seemed. But to be honest, at my own gym, only about one-third of the people even look like they've ever been inside such a place before.

I guess going through the motions makes them feel good about themselves. But why would so many people spend money and then not even pretend to exercise?

Four words that opened my eyes
At one point, all of these people had an "I can do it" moment: a brief burst of inspiration brought on by a friend, a personal trainer, or even an infomercial. They came to believe that with a little effort, they could truly get in shape. I should know -- I'm one of them.

Now, I've gone to the gym fairly regularly for years, and I get my fair share of exercise. But have I ever really reached my loftiest fitness goals? Nope.

Is that because I'm lazy, or I'm undisciplined, or I just don't have the genes for it? Sure, a lack of discipline or even genetics might be good reasons. But the real reason lies in four heartbreaking words ...

"I don't have time"
Time is our most precious resource, and lack of it is the No. 1 reason people don't go to the gym ... or travel the world ... or, well, you name it. It could also be the reason you never become a great investor, or make the kind of money you want in the stock market.

Becoming a master investor takes an almost impossible amount of time. Warren Buffett began his investing career at 10, and he's been practicing for hours a day ever since. Obviously, he's spent his time well.

But what about those of us who don't have the time it takes to become great investors or uncover life-changing investments? Heck, what about those of us who barely have time to keep up with the stocks we already own?

Take you, for example
Suppose you own a balanced portfolio consisting of the following widely followed stocks. Well, here's just some of the reading you should be doing to keep up with them:

Stock

No. of Pages in
Most Recent 10-Q

No. of Articles on Yahoo! Finance
So Far This Week

Bank of America (NYSE: BAC)

272

382

Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO)

190

114

AT&T (NYSE: T)

44

73

Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT)

43

113

McDonald's (NYSE: MCD)

42

40

Kraft (NYSE: KFT)

59

123

Exxon Mobil (NYSE: XOM)

34

70

Total:

684

915

In theory, you should be reading roughly 684 pages of quarterly reports and 915 articles per week just to keep up with the stocks you already own, let alone find new ones that could make you rich.

Now, don't get me wrong. I know you probably want to be a master investor -- just like I want to be in excellent shape. But I don't have time to read 684 pages of SEC filings and 915 articles per week. Do you?

Is there any hope?
Absolutely. Though investing is a hobby for most of us, devoting an hour or two a week to your portfolio will give you a huge advantage as you build your long-term wealth.

Unlike the in-flight ad I saw, which dubiously promoted a $14,000-plus machine that provided a total-body workout in four minutes a day, I can't promise that successful investing will be easy.

However, if you're looking for a shortcut to becoming a better investor, consider one of the newest offerings from Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner. It's called Motley Fool Pro, and it gives passionate yet time-strapped investors an all-access pass to follow along as David and his partner, Jeff Fischer, use their proprietary Motley Fool CAPS community-intelligence platform to invest $1 million of The Motley Fool's own money in long and short positions, options, and ETFs.

The ultimate payoff
While you won't become a master investor without a serious investment of your time, Motley Fool Pro can save you time, and it could help you make money in up, down, and roller-coaster markets like the one we're in today (to date, its total returns are north of 23%).

If you're tired of just going through the motions, and you're ready to start reaching your investment goals, I urge you to learn more about Motley Fool Pro right now. Just enter your email address in the box below.

This article was first published May 16, 2008. It has been updated.

Austin Edwards  owns shares of AT&T. Wal-Mart is an Inside Value selection. The Fool has a disclosure policy.