Time to sharpen ourselves
Time management experts for the last 100 years or so have been using the analogy of a woodsman chopping down trees who worked harder and harder to get more work done in a day. In competition with another woodsman who consistently outperformed him, even though the stranger didn’t seem to work as hard or as fast, he finally asked how he did it.
The other woodsman replied, “I pause to sharpen my axe.”
In more recent times, Stephen Covey used a similar analogy when he recommended a time management strategy of “sharpening the saw.”
Normally that has been referred to as pausing for routine maintenance – oiling your equipment, keeping your machines in good working order as well as pausing for rest and renewal, and taking your regular breaks and periodic vacations.
It is this latter reference that is becoming more and more critical in this digital age of speed. We have unlimited things to do, a plethora of choices, and unending supply of information – to the point that not only do we not get sufficient rest, we endanger our health and well-being by getting less sleep, inadequate exercise, improper diet and fewer personal relationships.
For example, the average person today gets 90 minutes less sleep than a person 100 years ago. A sedentary lifestyle and obesity are becoming the norm. People are frequently skipping breakfast eating on the run. And according to one survey, the most frequently quoted number of really close friends with whom people felt they could discuss important personal matters dropped from three in 1985 to zero in 2004.
We must sharpen the saw. The saw refers to you and to me. We must increase our sleep time, exercise our body and our brain, make regular breaks a daily habit, build more personal relationships, and take all of our vacation time.
This all consumes time. But the net result will not diminish our productivity. To the contrary, it will increase our personal productivity by increasing the energy at our disposal, making us more mentally alert and creative, providing us with more stamina, and improving our health and well-being – even to the point of prolonging our lives.