“Sharpen Your Saw” to Stay Creative, Productive & Stress Free (One of Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)

Latte & Journal by Myra Golden
Latte & Journal, a photo by Myra Golden on Flickr.

I start my mornings with a latte and journaling and then I go for a run. This is how I “sharpen my saw.”

In his stunning best seller, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” Stephen Covey tells the story of someone working feverishly to saw down a tree. An observer asks how long the man has been working on the tree. “Over 5 hours,” he says, “and I’m beat!” The observer suggests the man take a break to sharpen the saw, explaining that a sharper saw will make the work go much faster. The man retorts, “I’m too busy sawing!”

I read that in Covey’s book over 20 years ago and I’ve never forgotten the lesson here. I know I can work more creatively and productively after sharpening my saw. This year has been incredible for me. I’ve been booked solid with some amazing clients and feedback on my work has been so very positive. But this wonderful work and feeling comes with a price. I’ve had more business trips than I care to count. And there’s conference calls, meetings, proposal writing, webinars, networking lunches and on and on. Not to mention my family. My daughter cheers and my son plays football. That means 5 practices weekly and 2 games weekly between the 2 kids. It’s a lot for me.

I couldn’t maintain my chock-full schedule if I didn’t take time to relax, refresh and renew. I have to “sharpen my saw” in order to function at peak performance.

Stephen Covey says we must take time to sharpen our saw in 4 areas:

  1. Mental – For me this is journaling and reading. Sharpen your mental saw by reading, visualizing, planning or writing.
  2. Physical – My mental sharpening is running. What is it for you? Any exercise counts as physical saw sharpening, so get moving!
  3. Spiritual – Daily prayer and prayer throughout the day is my way of spiritual sharpening. What is it for you? Meditation and value clarification could also be spiritual saw sharpening.
  4. Social/Emotional – Covey describes this area as service, empathy, synergy and intrinsic security.

I try to sharpen my saw in each of these 4 areas daily and I challenge you to try to do so as well. When you do, you’ll work more productively and creatively and likely even faster.