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Sharpen the Saw for You

In perhaps the most popular business/self-help book ever written, Seven Habits of Highly Successful People by Steven Covey, one of the habits he recommends is to sharpen the saw. Though this book is relatively old, I highly recommend it--it is full of wisdom.

Covey relates a story about a fellow taking a walk in the woods, where he stumbles across two woodsmen with a cross saw felling a large tree. The woodsmen were straining and sweating, one pulling in one direction, the other pulling in the other direction, yet they were making very little progress. The bystander finally asked the sawmen, “why do you think you are making such little progress?” They replied, “the saw is not very sharp.” When the bystander asked the inevitable next question, “why don’t you sharpen the saw?” The men replied, “we don’t have the time.”

In the context of this story, the need to take the time to sharpen the saw is abundantly clear. However, we often ignore the need to sharpen ourselves; instead, we overwork and become increasingly less happy and satisfied each day.

The need to sharpen the saw is more likely on people’s minds as summer approaches. Traditionally, summer is a time when people sharpen their saw, and I totally endorse taking some time off and taking care of yourself.

However, the harder work is keeping the saw sharp when the faster pace of fall arrives. It is critical that you create a routine to rest, to center and to keep yourself sharp all year long. Commit to creating a routine this summer that will carry over during busier times.

While I love the Sharpening the Saw story, I do have one concern. The story, particularly in the context of the book, implies that you should sharpen the saw so you can be more efficient at work. That should not be the main driver. Instead, you should keep yourself rested and balanced because it is good for you. We need to take care of ourselves because we deserve to be cared for not because it will make us better at our jobs.

If a side effect of sharpening the saw is that you are more efficient at work, that is great. But you should be focusing on your physical, mental and spiritual health. It is good for you and all the people around you.


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