“Sharpening Your Saw” – Little Time Investments That Make A Big Difference

Sharpening Your Saw

Do you know the expression “sharpening the saw”? It comes from a story by American bestselling author Stephen Covey (7 Habits of Highly Effective People and others) and goes like this:

A carpenter is busy cutting wood, however it’s a very exhausting work, because he’s working with a blunt saw. A walker is passing by, observes the carpenter for a while and then asks: “Why are you not sharpening your saw before you continue?” The carpenter looks up, points to the stack of wood and says: “Can’t you see? There is still so much to do – I don’t have time!”

This story is an example what clever and effective organisation is about: investing a bit of time now to simplify, organise, systemise or plan to save time and energy in the future.

For example:

  • You’re using a sheet that is impractible and needs to be adjusted manually every time you use it? Create a new one!
  • You’re working with a software that has very helpful features that you can’t use, because you don’t know how? Take the time to become familiar with it!
  • Your cabinet is full of pictures you wanted to sort ‘some day’? Get yourself a scrapbook and glue them in or if that’s already too much, get a little filing system and sort them by date or occasion.

If you plan to organise or optimise on a bigger scale, it’s easier to break big task down into smaller ones. That way a wishy-washy goal like ‘cleaning up the office’ is divided into concrete tasks like:

  • Filing: organise filing storage (if necessary), create new filing maps and a filing system
  • Computer: back up files, delete files, software, installations, plug-ins etc that haven’t been used and that are outdated
  • Desk: check and sort out tools (pencils, pens, etc)
  • Paper: sight and sort papers by topics, process or delegate, file or dispose of outdated papers
  • Rolodex: update business contacts, change of address, phone number or company, add new contacts
(source: ORGENDA Verlag für persönliche Weiterentwicklung – ein Verlagsbereich der VNR Verlag für die Deutsche Wirtschaft AG)
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