Back to Busy – How to Continue Sharpening the Saw

Back to Busy: How to Continue Sharpening the Saw

In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey discusses the importance of scheduling time to relax. Just like you can’t cut down a tree with a dull saw, you can’t perform to your greatest extent without taking time to rejuvenate yourself physically, spiritually, mentally, and socially/emotionally. But with September comes a new school year, quickly followed by a new fiscal year, big holidays, and so much more, how can you possibly take time for yourself? Here are a few simple ideas that will take you 30 minutes or less.


If you’re tired and sick all of the time, you’re not going to be very productive, no matter how much you work. At minimum, focus on exercising, eating right, and getting enough sleep. These may seem daunting, but there are small things you can do to help, such as:  taking a 20 minute power nap during your lunch break, reducing caffeine consumption, or adding fruits and vegetables to your diet. Experiment with different areas and see what makes you feel best.


The concrete day-to-day takes so much of our attention that the more spiritual things tend to get pushed to the side. The idea of “spirituality” will mean different things to everyone, but here are some ideas to get you started: study scripture or philosophy, sit in silence and solitude, cultivate gratitude, spend time in nature, work on your mission statement, journal, or volunteer.


For most workers, the job they do constantly dulls their mental saw, so the idea of doing more mental work in their leisure time hardly seems refreshing. Instead, they spend their time surfing the internet or watching TV. However, the best way to rejuvenate your dulled-down mind is not to turn it off, but to give it something different to think about. You could read a book, listen to a stimulating podcast, or watch a documentary.


Although Stephen Covey grouped the two together, you may find that your social and emotional health require different activities. To sharpen the social saw, consider going to lunch with a friend, joining a sports team, taking your significant other on a date, or hosting a dinner party. For emotional rejuvenation, you could meditate, keep a gratitude journal, visit a therapist, practice deep breathing, or recite positive affirmations. You’ll probably find that these categories are complementary.

Taking time to take care of yourself will ultimately make you more productive and keep you from feeling burnt out. Make it one of your big rocks so it becomes a priority in your life.

6 Replies to “Back to Busy – How to Continue Sharpening the Saw”

  1. Excellent suggestions. As I read through these 4/5 suggestions I was drawing in my mind a shape. Not a saw as Stephen says but rather a figure, a six sided figure to give balance. After a brief reflection I thought that the sixth of this six sided figure could be your State, probably because it is our physiology which not only reflects our State but also makes our being whole.

  2. How do you explain to others that this is more or as important as what ever they need.
    This is my problem when I need to carve out time for myself .

  3. Thank you. Great reminder on how important small habits are to success. I call them my power of 20. If I spend 20 minutes at each item you listed it doesn’t take much time but the benefit is huge. (I do spend a little more on exercise. )

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