Suppose you were to come upon someone in the woods working feverishly to saw down a large tree.
“What are doing?” you ask.
“Can’t you see?” comes the exhausted reply. “I am cutting down this tree.”
“You look exhausted. How long have you been at it?”
“Over five hours now,” he returns, “and I am beat! This is hard work.”
“Well, why don’t you take a break for a few minutes, and while you’re sitting down, sharpen that saw?” you inquire with concern. “I’m sure that it would go easier.”
“I don’t have time for that,” the man says. “I’m too busy sawing down this tree.”
Sounds ridiculous, right? Everyone knows sharper saws accomplish the task with much less effort.
Not so fast… we are all guilty of failing to sharpen our saws. Your “saw” is your set of resources that you use to be productive. Stephen Covey groups these resources into four categories: Physical, Social/Emotional, Mental and Spiritual. When you fail to sharpen the saw in one of these categories, your productivity will suffer.
For example, when you fail to sharpen your Physical saw by getting enough sleep, you aren’t as “sharp.” It’s harder to think conceptually and make decisions. The longer you go without sharpening this saw, the more mistakes you make.
When you fail to sharpen your Mental saw by attending training, reading books and learning new ways of doing things, you become less effective in your ministry. Others, who have more relevant knowledge, begin to outpace you.
It’s okay to take a break, and it’s okay to invest some time, energy and resources into yourself. Why not set some daily goals to incorporate a few saw sharpening habits regularly in the coming year?
If the ax is dull,
And one does not sharpen the edge,
Then he must use more strength;
But wisdom brings success.
(S – Stephen Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People )