Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Sharpening The Saw

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I’ll spend the first four sharpening the ax.”
                                                           -Abraham Lincoln

Leadership and management expert, Stephen Covey has taken Lincoln’s quote one step further. He believes that one of the essential habits of successful people is their ability to “sharpen the saw”. By this he means taking care of the tools or resources that we most often use during our daily activities. It makes whatever task we are attempting easier and more efficient. In life, your most valuable resource is you. You are the tool you use to accomplish the various challenges that you are faced with in your day. Most people rarely stop to think about how to take care of themselves, which leads to less efficiency and greater frustration in life. Here are a couple of thoughts about how take care of your most valuable resource:

Get To Sleep
Sleep is often the first casualty in our quest to become more productive and successful. It’s so easy to stay up an extra hour to finish that assignment or to wake up 30 minutes early to get a head start on the house. We can get away with neglecting sleep for a while, but eventually and inevitably it catches up to us. Our thinking becomes hazy and our emotions become unpredictable. Before long our body begins to physically shut down as well. If you want to take care of you, protect your sleep!

Get Creative
For most of us, our daily jobs don’t provide a creative outlet. If that’s the case, it’s critical that you make time to engage the creative parts of your brain. Paint, play music, landscape your yard, write, or do whatever you enjoy doing that stimulates your creativity. Engaging our creative impulses adds color to our life and reduces our stress. If you are thinking that you don’t have time for creative pursuits, then you need this outlet even more than most!

Get Alone
Even if you are an outgoing person who loves to surround themselves with people, you need some time alone. Time away from all of the distractions of life allows us to see the world in new ways. On an average day our brain is assaulted with all sorts of stimuli. There are people that need our attention and deadlines that need to be met. Music is playing everywhere we go. Horns blow on the roads and babies cry at home. Taking a few minutes to escape gives our minds a chance to sort themselves out. We are often able to prioritize the events of our day better after a break, which decreases our stress and adds much needed clarity to our day. So whether it’s a walk down the street or locking yourself in the bathroom for a few minutes, find some space to be alone today!

I hope you take time today to “sharpen the saw”, you are much too valuable a resource to be ignored!

Stephen Covey talks at length about Sharpening The Saw in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People


  1. Having first had to live and then teach these exact concepts, I could not agree more. The sleep part is especially interesting. There are some very good, well-known authors that are espousing getting up early. There is even an app called #5Club for those dedicated to getting up at 5AM to engage in their "hustle" (working toward a dream). While I certainly do not disagree with ordering your life in such a way as to have that creative time, we cannot do it at the expense of sleep. If someone is going to be #5Clubbing it, then they need to go to bed earlier.

    Another thing we've given up a lot of in our home is television. It makes it a whole lot easier to go to sleep when my brain isn't buzzing from the latest episode of NCIS or one of the 400 CSI shows. Of course it's a trade off - I have on clue what is on television. Ever. Unless it's sports (because - FOOTBALL). Thankfully, Facebook helps me stay culturally relevant. :)

    Great post and so much truth. I hope all the readers take it to heart and protect the one asset God has given that cannot be replaced - ourselves.