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Sharpening the Saw — Covey
Source: Michael Olpin, Associate Professor, Health Promotion & Human Performance, Weber State University, Ogden, UT

Covey recommends that we include in our planning, an important area on which we must focus which he calls “sharpening the saw.”

A story exemplifies what it means to “sharpen the saw.” A man is feverishly sawing away at a tree with his hand saw. A friend walks by and asks the man working so hard on the tree why he doesn't stop for a little while and sharpen his saw so that he can cut the tree more easily. The man cutting the tree replies that he can't stop to sharpen the saw, he is too busy sawing.

Have you ever felt like you are continually busy, yet you are not accomplishing anything important? Taking time to sharpen your saw can dramatically affect the level of accomplishment you feel in your life. Instead of just being busy sawing with a dull saw, you are cutting down the trees.

There are things in life that we can do that, if we did them on a regular basis, would help us to sharpen our saw and in so doing, allow us to do all the other things that we do with greater ease and effectiveness. As we plan, consider some of those saw sharpening activities for each of our dimensions.

For example, for the physical dimension, we might focus on such activities as getting regular aerobic and anaerobic exercise. We might focus on eating more healthy food. We might also work to get more sleep at night, go to bed at an earlier time in the evening, and awaken earlier to get off to a good start. In the mental/emotional dimension, we might do such things as practice regular meditation, spend quality time with family and friends, or exercise our minds by doing puzzles.

In the spiritual dimension, we might read more inspiring literature, participate in service oriented projects, attend religious services, or pray more frequently. These examples have value of themselves, but they also help us to do all the other things that we want or need to do more easily and effectively.

In our planning time, select Quadrant 2 Goals for each role.

Do this by asking the question:

What is the most important thing I can do in this role today or this week to have the greatest positive impact in my life?

For example, a mom might decide the most important thing she can do in her relationship with one of her kids is to spend 30 minutes each night reading to him before he goes to bed. As we answer this question, it is important to keep a few things in mind to help us make the best decisions about what we should do.

  1. Use our conscience. Our conscience is our connection to the more intuitive part of our being. Some say it is our connection to the divine that is in all of us.
  2. Focus on importance rather than urgency.
  3. Perhaps only one goal per week is all that is necessary. Your conscience decides.
  4. Focus on the wholeness of a quality life. Keep the bigger picture in mind.