Sharpening the Saw – Are you Taking Enough Time to Ensure Your Tools are Performing?

How sharp is Your Saw?

Suppose you were to come upon someone in the woods working feverishly to saw down a tree.

“What are you doing?” you ask.
“Can’t you see,” comes the impatient reply. “I’m sawing down this tree.”
“You look exhausted” you exclaim. “How long have you been at it?”
“Over five hours,” he replies, “and I’m beat! This is hard work.”
“Well, why don’t you take a break for a few minutes and sharpen that saw?” you inquire. “I’m sure it would be a lot faster.”
“I don’t have time to sharpen the saw,” the man says emphatically. “I’m too busy sawing!”

– Stephen R. Covey

This anecdote is from Stephen Covey’s, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ and identifies ‘Sharpen the Saw’ as habit number 7.
So what does ‘sharpen the saw’ mean? Well essentially this habit is all about YOU! It is meant to preserve and enhance you by focusing on renewing the four dimensions of your nature – physical, spiritual, mental and social/emotional.
You have to give these four dimensions time, energy and attention in order to feed them for a healthy and balanced life.
In today’s very busy world, attention to these dimensions are very important for our well being. Like the saw that doesn’t get sharpened, if we don’t focus on these four dimensions, we will struggle to perform at our best. We will expend much more energy which will potentially lead to precarious levels of exhaustion and stress.

Let’s take a closer look at each of the dimensions:

1. The Physical Dimension

This dimension involves caring for your physical health – eating well, exercising on a regular basis, and getting a great night’s sleep.
How are your eating habits?Are you skipping meals? Are you eating nutritious food or are you living on a diet of coffee/soft drinks, high fat, high sugar and high salt foods? Are you experiencing stomach and gut issues? We often think that we eat better than we do, so for one week, log your eating habits. At the end of that week, decide if you want to make any changes to what you eat, when you eat, how much you eat, and how you feel after you have eaten. Speak with your doctor, nutritionist or dietician to make safe and effective nutritional dietary changes.

According to Participaction, to achieve health benefits, adults aged 18-64 years should accumulate at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate-to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more. You also want to include muscle and bone-strengthening activities at least two days per week. You can get more information at
If you’re not exercising much, consider what you can start doing for a few minutes a day, gradually working your way to the recommended amount of physical activity. Make sure you’re having fun doing the activity as it will help you to stick to it. Do speak to your health practitioner before starting to exercise.

Are you getting enough Z’zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz?
Good quality sleep is super important for us to be able to function at our peak. Are you waking up refreshed or are you hitting the snooze button a couple of times before you drag yourself out of bed? Does it take you a long time to fall asleep? Are there distractions in your bedroom – lots of light, cell phone on the nightstand, TV, etc.
There are a lot of things to consider for good sleep so if you’re experiencing sleep issues speak to your health practitioner. Mental Health Canada has great information about the importance of sleep.


2. The Spiritual Dimension

The spiritual dimension is your core, your commitment to your value system. A person’s spiritual dimension is a very personal and private area of life. What do you believe in that brings peace and strength within you? Are you living on purpose and is it aligned with your value system? Do you have a personal mission statement?
Our spirituality draws on sources that inspire and uplift us. We each have our own ways to renew our spiritual selves. Some will meditate, read a scripture, or attend a religious service. For others, music, literature or spending time in nature will support someone to feel renewed.
What do you do to renew your spiritual self?


3. The Mental Dimension

This dimension is about life-long learning, organizing and planning. Honing and expanding the mind is a vital mental renewal. The world is changing at an incredible pace, so what are you doing to keep up? What new skills are you learning? How are you planning and organizing your future?
As per Stephen Covey, writing is “another powerful way to sharpen the mental saw. Keeping a journal of our thoughts, experiences, insights, and learning promotes mental clarity, exactness, and context.”
Keep on learning!


4. The Social/Emotional Dimension

This dimension centres on the principles of interpersonal leadership, empathic communications, and creative cooperation. Covey states that “the social and the emotional dimensions of our lives are tied together because our emotional life is primarily, but not exclusively, developed out of and manifested in our relationships with others.”
It requires exercise to have effective everyday interactions with people. We need to practice active communication to effectively listen to others – especially when they don’t agree with us. That is how we achieve a win-win outcome. Listening with intent will also help us understand each others’ points of views.
By focusing on renewing the four dimensions of your nature on a daily basis, you will live a healthier, more productive, rewarding and balanced life.

Marielle Gauthier, owner and principal of Redworks Communications, is a certified Results coach and is accredited as an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) by the International Coaching Federation. Using brain based models, she holds coaching conversations with clients to help them gain clarity, generate insights, overcome self-limiting beliefs, and develop new habits to improve individual performance and become more effective leaders. She also coaches teams to improve their group performance and achieve corporate goals with measurable results. For more information on coaching services contact Marielle at (306) 955-3205, or visit She is based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.