Habit 7- Sharpening The Saw
September 4, 2022
In Steven Covey’s The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People, Habit #7 is “Sharpen the Saw.” Covey uses the analogy of a woodcutter who has been sawing for several days straight and is becoming less and less productive. This is because a sharp blade dulls as it cuts more and more. It is, therefore, necessary to sharpen the saw periodically.
What does sharpening the saw really mean in the context of our work life?
I believe there are two distinct scenarios requiring two different answers to this question.
Scenario 1: Imagine you have been working intensely on some task for an extended period without any break. As you keep pushing yourself physically and emotionally, you find yourself on the edge of inefficiency. You start making mistakes, your creativity wanes, and your productivity suffers. This is one way your saw of cognitive efficiency blunts. In this scenario, the only way you sharpen the saw is by taking a break from what you are engrossed in and recuperating. Then, you come back to the task rested and rejuvenated.
Scenario 2: You are doing some activity for an extended period, and you develop proficiency in doing that activity. The task holds no intellectual challenge, and you operate on autopilot. Over time, you don’t grow and evolve intellectually. In this scenario, sharpening the saw is an activity, unlike taking a break. It is about investing in yourself to enhance your skill sets and capabilities to be prepared to take on more significant tasks that stretch you. The investment you make in sharpening your saw is not linear and straightforward. It could be in different dimensions. Here are five of the sharpening the saw ideas I have worked on.
- Learning the skill of meditation– To help me manage my emotional state better- was necessary as I moved into leadership roles.
- Invest in a mentor/coach– To help me deal with the complexities of more prominent and visible roles.
- Read books on planning and productivity– To help me deal with the demands of complex roles.
- Develop a daily bullet journaling habit– To help me be at my best
- Writing a daily blog– To keep me curious and disciplined every day.
Habit 7 teaches us to take the time to stop and “sharpen our saw.” It is synonymous with self-care and self-improvement. Figure out how you are “sharpening the saw” for yourself !!