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Sharpening the Saw can make a big difference

focus planning Feb 04, 2019

Stephen Covey, in his book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People", one of the bestselling books internationally, talks about the importance of training and development, he calls it: Sharpening the saw.

What does the concept of Sharpen the Sierra mean?

He defines it as seeking continuous improvement and professional and personal renewal, that is, preserving and improving the most important asset you have: YOURSELF.

He mentions that it is important to have a balanced program of self-renewal in what he calls the four areas of your life:

Physical. Through good nutrition, 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 renewing in each of the four areas will create growth and change in our lives. It keeps us fresh to be able to obtain better results in everything that we set out to do, we will increase the capacity to produce and handle the challenges that surround us.

He mentions that without this renewal the body weakens, the mind becomes mechanical, the emotions raw, the spirit insensitive and the person becomes selfish. Ouch, I think that does not sound nice, at least I would not like it, I guess you do not either. 

Meeting this important aspect of your life it is not accomplished overnight, it takes time. So, as important is to schedule a meeting with a client, as to find time in your busy agenda to work on any of these aspects.

Stephen Covey explained the importance of the 7th habit, sharpen the saw using the analogy of a lumberjack shown in the video that appears in this blog.

If you are one of those who stop to sharpen the saw, Congratulations!, but if you are one of those who continue working hard as the lumberjack because you have to finish, and you cannot stop, we invite you to think and really analyze if what you have done so far will help you to achieve your goals effectively.

If you analyze this concept thoroughly, you will recognize the damage you are doing to yourself in your physical health, for example, not give yourself enough time to exercise, rest, have a good diet. Regarding the Social / Emotional aspect, what are the results of not making social and significant connections with others?

In the mental aspect, when was the last time you learned something new or you worked to develop your skills? And in the spiritual area, when was the last time you work on your inner being?

If we are honest with ourselves we have a very important area of ‚Äč‚Äčopportunity here.

Let's focus today on the mental aspect, specifically the importance of learning every day, and keep updated. Do not do what others do, leave it for later because the truth is that, if we do not commit and include it in our list of weekly activities, it will not happen.

What will happen if we do not?

It will continue to have a negative impact on our productivity levels, as well as our short and long term performance.

Let's think for a moment, most of us use spreadsheets like Excel, for example. Have you ever thought about how much you master the use of this program? It is a very important work tool for many of us, right? Can you imagine how much your productivity would increase if you spent some time learning how to make your work easier by using this tool better? 

This is just an example. I invite you to analyze other areas in which you could improve your productivity and therefore your results if you spend between 1 and 2 hours a week to improve your knowledge and skills.

Schedule time to read: Read books that give you some new knowledge, that help you think of other ways of handling a situation, to think outside of the box and also, that sparks your creativity.

Research, the internet is your best friend when it is correctly used. Instead of wasting time on social media, use the same social platforms to learn new things, new concepts, there are many groups where ideas are shared to get better results.

Update your skills. There are many online courses that can help you improve your skills, and you do not have to travel to another place to do it, you can avoid dealing with traffic, or waste your time and money in transportation, etc.

Search for online courses, you can easily find anything you need. If you like interaction with other people, there are courses where everyone connects through systems such as Skype or Zoom or other platforms. Or if you prefer in person, there are also,  universities, chambers of commerce and associations. I can assure you that doing some research you will  find them and  at the price you need.

Review which are the most important skills and knowledge you need to improve to be able to do a better job and focus on them.

Do not try to do 10 things at the same time, focus on the one that has the greatest impact at the moment and work on that one first.

Take time off. Your brain needs to rest, if you work constantly there comes a time when it loses its effectiveness, you need to take some time off, to be able to be more productive. During your work day, take breaks, I mean real mental breaks. Go for a walk for 10 minutes, leave your computer and cell phone aside, the idea is that you really relax, not to worry about doing other things.

Take a vacation, really disconnecting from your work so that you recharge your batteries. Go to the beach, to the countryside, to another city, or if you cannot travel, just take time to rest and enjoy with your family and friends.

Keep a routine. Start each morning with an activity that will help you sharpen the saw. For example, listen to an audio book when you are getting ready or when you are driving. At the end of your day do the same, for example read a book or listen of a motivational podcast.


If you do something every day (30 minutes a day, for example) imagine what you will have progressed in a week, in a month, in a year.

Do not wait any longer, start now!

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© 2019, All Rights Reserved, Aldin Consulting Group, LLC.

Alicia Díaz-Blevins

[email protected]


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