What exactly is sharpening the axe? Dr Steven Covey, who popularised the term, believes that it means “increasing your personal production capacity by daily self-care and self-maintenance”.
Most people fail to understand what it means and mistake it for taking a break or vacation. If you’re overworking yourself and your productivity drops, take a break. However, that isn’t sharpening the axe – that’s putting the axe down.
Sharpening the axe is an activity. You too can sharpen the axe of your life. Here are examples of axe-sharpening activities:
1. Read a book every day.
2. Get out of your comfort zone by changing jobs. A new job forces you to learn.
3. Have a deep conversation with someone you find interesting. Sharpen your axe through that interaction.
4. Pick up a new hobby. Stretch yourself physically, mentally or emotionally.
5. Study something new.
6. Overcome a specific fear you have or quit a bad habit.
7. Have a daily exercise routine or take part in some competition.
8. Identify your blind spots. Understand, acknowledge, and address them.
9. Ask for feedback and get a mentor.
10. Learn from people who inspire you.
How are your various blades doing? Your skills, knowledge, mind, physical body, relationships, motivation, commitment to succeed, capacity for growth, emotions – are all of them still sharp? If not, which ones are dull, and what can you do to sharpen them?
Lincoln once said “give me six hours to chop down a tree and I’ll spend the first four sharpening my axe”. What are you doing to sharpen your axe? Take a step back this weekend and start sharpening your axe.