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Continuous improvement, your secret weapon

Stephen Covey, in his book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People", one of the best- selling books internationally, talks about the importance of keeping up to date, he calls it: Sharpen the Saw. And now that we have time, what better chance to do so.

What does the concept Sharpen the Saw mean?

I don’t know if you’re familiar with the story of the lumberjack: sharpen the saw, if you don’t, we share it here with you:

There once was a lumberjack who showed up for work in a sawmill.  The salary was good and the work conditions even better; therefore, the lumberjack decided to use all his experience.

The first day at work he met the foreman, who gave him a saw and designated a work area to him.  The man, excited, came out of the forest and in just one day he had cut down eighteen trees.

- Congratulations, the foreman said; keep it up.

Encouraged by the foreman’s words, he decided to improve his own record, so he went to bed early that night.

In the morning, he got up before anyone else and went to the forest.  Despite all of his efforts, he couldn’t cut down more than fifteen trees.

Feeling sad about his performance, he thought he perhaps needed more rest so that night he decided to go to sleep at sundown.  At dawn he got up and decided to beat his record of 18 trees.  However, that day he only cut down ten.

The next day it was seven, then five until at the end of that week he only cut down two.  He couldn’t understand what was happening since physically he was in perfect shape, just like on the first day.

Tired, and because he respected the people who had hired him, he decided to tender his resignation, so he went to the foreman and told him:

-Sir, I don’t know what’s wrong with me, and I also don’t understand why I have stopped performing at my job.

The foreman, a very wise man, asked him:

-When did you last sharpen your saw?

-Sharpen?  I’ve never done it, I didn’t have time to sharpen my saw, I couldn’t waste time doing that, I was too busy cutting down trees.

As you can see, this concept is very important, success isn’t achieved by working hard, but rather by seeking continuous improvement and professional and personal renewal, that is, preserving and improving the most important asset that you have: YOURSELF.  

Stephen Covey mentions that it’s important to have a balanced self-renewal program for what he calls the four areas of your life:

Physical. Through a good diet, exercise and rest.

Social/Emotional. Making social and meaningful connections with others.

Mental. Through learning, reading, writing and teaching.  

Spiritual. Spend time with nature, expand your spiritual self through meditation, music, art, prayer or service.

He says that by renewing your self in these four areas we will create growth and change in our life.  This keeps us fresh so that we can achieve the best results in everything that we propose to do, increasing our ability to produce and manage the challenges around us.   

He mentions that without this renewal, the body weakens, the mind turns mechanical, emotions turn crude, the spirit insensitive and the person selfish. 

If you thoroughly analyze this concept, think of the damage you’re doing to yourself regarding your physical health if you don’t take the time to exercise, rest, eat healthy.  Regarding the Social/Emotional aspect, what is the outcome if you don’t make social and meaningful connections with others?

Regarding the mental aspect, when was the last time you learned something new or improved your abilities?   And on the spiritual front, how long has it been since you allowed yourself time to work on your inner self.

This is the best time to start sharpening the saw, we always decide that we don’t have enough time, well, now we have it, God, the Universe, life, any thing or any being that you believe in has gifted us with a great treasure TIME, so let’s use it in the best way possible.  Let’s seize it to better ourselves.

Plan time to read. Read books that let you acquire more knowledge, that help you think of different ways to deal with a situation, that open spaces for your creativity, to think outside the box.

Explore. The internet is your best friend when it’s used wisely.  Instead of wasting time on social networks, use those same social networks to learn new things, new concepts, there are many groups that share ideas to obtain better outcomes.

Update your skills. There are many online courses that can help you improve your skills, and you don’t have to travel to another location to do so, it’s not necessary to fight traffic, waste time commuting, etc. 

Look for online courses, you can easily find anything you need.  If you like interaction with other people, there are courses that connect you via systems like Skype or Zoom or other platforms.

Review the most important skills and knowledge that you need to do your job better, and focus on them.  Don’t try to do 10 things at once, focus on the one that will have the most impact during these times and address it first. 

Options for online courses: 

  • in this link you will find access to free very interesting courses from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford University, Princeton University, Yale University, Imperial College London.  
  • Courses at very reasonable prices Udemy, Linkedin Learning.
  • Google and YouTube your best friends.  
  • Also look for companies like ours, at this time many of us have discounts or special coupons to help you during the pandemic, we are sharing our link and if you’re interested use the code UNIDOS2020 for any of our online courses at In Spanish 

Maintain a routine. Start each morning with an activity that will help you sharpen the saw.  For example, listen to an audiobook when you’re getting ready or as you go about your activities.  Finish your day with something that helps you as well, like reading a book. 

If you do something every day (30 min daily, for example) imagine what you will have accomplished in one week, in one month, in one year.

© 2020, All Rights Reserved, Aldin Consulting Group, LLC.
Alicia Díaz-Blevins
[email protected]



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