Sharpen the Saw


"We must never become too busy sawing to take time to sharpen the saw." ~ Stephen R. Covey.

In the classic “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, Stephen R. Covey tells the story of a man who was walking through a forest when he came across a frustrated lumberjack trying to cut down a tree in vain. When the man asks, “What’s the problem?”, the lumberjack explains that the saw is blunt and won’t cut the tree properly. When the man asks why he doesn’t simply stop and sharpen the saw, the lumberjack exclaims that he doesn’t have the time!

Just like the lumberjack, we all experience those moments when the sense of urgency can overwhelm us, and we forget to take the vital time to stop, reflect and renew. “Sharpening the saw” can mean many different things, for example:

  • Making time for your mental and physical wellbeing – for example, adding meditation or exercise to your ‘busy’ daily routine
  • Regularly connecting with family and friends, maintaining our social bonds (especially during this period of social distancing)
  • Ensuring we continue to grow personally and professionally, whether through reading, learning, writing or experiencing

If you’re feeling frustrated or overwhelmed it’s easy to convince yourself that the only option is to go faster, to work harder. In reality, that is almost never the best option.

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