This entry is inspired by The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Dr. Stephen R. Covey

“If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.”

– Abraham Lincoln

This quote from the former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln proves the importance of ‘sharpening the saw’.

What Does Sharpening The Saw Really Mean?

‘Sharpening the saw’ is one of the 7 habits of highly effective people as proposed by Dr. Covey. It talks about the principles of balanced self-renewal.

Sharpening the the saw or the practice of constant self-renewal is very important in our personal and professional lives because it helps us keep things in perspective. It’s a way to preserve our sanity and well-being so that we can be better prepared to face the challenges that life will throw at us.

One of the ways we can implement this practice is by taking a break from time to time. Taking a break from what? From everything. Every once in a while, schedule a time for yourself and find the time to relax and rejuvenate. Remember, your are not running away from your responsibilities. You are merely taking a break for a while so that when you comeback, you are more focused and better equipped to face whatever is in front of you. It is an investment, not a liability.

The Man In The Woods

In the book, Dr. Covey shared a scenario wherein he urge the readers to imagine themselves being in the woods. Along the way they met someone who is working feverishly to cut down a tree. They then asked him what he was doing. The man replied impatiently:

“Can’t you see?[…] I’m sawing down a tree”

They then exclaimed that he look exhausted and proceeded to ask him:

“How long have you been at it?”

He then answered that he was doing it for over five hours already and that he is beat and tired. They then suggested to him to take a break for a while and ‘sharpen the saw’. His reply? He said that he was too busy sawing that he can’t find the time to sharpen the saw.

In life, most of us are like this, partly because of our responsibilities. We have to continue on working because we have mouths to feed and bills to pay. Our modern work culture rarely afford us the luxury to take a break for a while and take care of ourselves. There is no blame for us on this one.

Where the blame cones in is when use that fact as an excuse as to why we can’t find time to take care of ourselves and ‘sharpen our saw’ for a while. I believe that if it is important enough for us, we will find the time to integrate it into our daily routine. They don’t have to be grand. They can be done in small chunks of time or time blocks.

Lessons From The Maestro

I can’t stress enough how important taking a break is. If you need more convincing, perhaps this quote from Leonardo da Vinci will do just that:

“It is also a very good plan every now and then to go away and have a little relaxation; for when you come back to work your judgement will be surer, since to remain constantly at work will cause you to lose the power of judgement.”

The Last Supper

The quote above is from the book How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci by Michael Gelb. The author also shared a story about da Vinci while he was working on the Last Supper.

“[He] spent many days on the scaffold, painting from dawn until dusk; then, without warning, he would take a break.”

– Michael Gelb

The prior who contracted da Vinci was not amused. It seem strange to him that on some days da Vinci would be so engrossed in his work that he would work from dawn until dusk. Then on some days, he would let half a day pass being lost in his own thoughts. So he (the prior) complained to the duke who then questioned da Vinci about his working habits. What was da Vinci’s reply? Well, he told the duke the truth in a rather humorous manner:

“[The] greatest geniuses sometimes accomplish more when they work less.”

– Leonardo da Vinci

Science Backs It Up

Clearly, basing on his personality, da Vinci was probably just being funny. As Michael Gelb remarked:

“… Leonardo didn’t underestimate his stature, yet pride in his abilities and confidence in the rhythms of incubation were balanced with humility and delightful humor.”

Though he was probably just being funny, what da Vinci said was true. As Michael Gelb shared in his book:

“Modern psychological research shows that when you study or work for an hour, and then take a complete break for ten minutes, your recall for the material you have been working on is high at the end of the ten minute break than it was at the end of the hour. Psychologists call this phenomenon the Reminiscence Effect.”

Thank You!

Okay that’s it for now, thank you for reading this entry! I hope you got something out of it. Something valuable. Something that you can apply in your own life. If you would like to add something that you feel would be of great help to the other readers. Feel free to do so by dropping a comment down below. I and (I presume) the other readers would love to hear from you. Again, thank you for reading this entry. Cheers! Till next time!😊👋


Image by: pepperminting via Pixabay

Book excerpts are from:

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Dr. Stephen R. Covey

How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci by Michael Gelb

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