The Zoo, the Woodsman, and the Axe
A few years ago, a burly woodcutter took a job at the local zoo. The pay was reasonable and he got to do exactly what he did best-chop wood. The woodcutter was excited because he always wanted to work at a zoo and he set out to do his best.
The next day, his boss gave him an axe and brought him out to an overgrown area of the zoo and gave him his instructions.
"Today," his boss started, "you need to chop down these 15 trees so that we can build a new animal enclosure."
It took all day but when the woodcutter's boss checked in at the end of the day, he was making his final cut on the last tree.
"Congratulations," the boss said. "You've done a great job today. See you tomorrow!"
Very motivated by his boss' words, the woodcutter worked even harder the next day, but he could only clear out 10 trees. The third day he tried even harder, but he could only bring 7 trees. Day after day he was bringing less and less trees.
"I must be losing my strength", the woodcutter thought. He went to his boss and apologized, saying that he could not understand what was going on.
"When was the last time you sharpened your axe?" the boss asked.
"Sharpen? I have been so busy chopping trees that I have had no time to sharpen my axe."
How often do we head out to chop down our own trees without ever taking the time to first sharpen the saw? I know I've been guilty of this, only to realize midway through the task that I hadn't stopped to sharpen the saw. Without the right tools, skills, and knowledge, even the simplest of tasks can become incredibly difficult.
Habit 7 isn't only about performing tasks with the right tools. It is also about renewal of the body, mind, and soul so that your most valuable tool of all--your brain--is sharpened and ready to do great work. In his acclaimed book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey defines the four dimensions of a human being that require regular renewal:
- The Physical Dimension
- The Mental Dimension
- The Social/Emotional Dimension; and
- The Spiritual Dimension
Here are a few of the things I do to find renewal in my daily life:
- Cooking/Eating Healthy Meals. I love cooking so this one is a great place to start; do you enjoy cooking or baking more?
- Drinking Lots of Water. I know that I feel better when I remember to drink lots of water but I tend to forget to do this on long car rides or on business trips.
- Exercise. When I exercise, my mind works better. I know that my creative juices flow better after I work out.Get Enough Sleep. Usually I am pretty good about getting enough sleep...except on Game of Thrones nights...(yawn)
- Structure My Day. I've gotten in the habit of blocking out my entire day using my Outlook calendar so that I have a structured plan of work. I build in time for the unplanned tasks that often come from my clients on a daily basis but I do them at a time and place of my choosing.
- Take Breaks. I have found that taking a break between a change from one project and another helps me to transition and to be more productive with the next task.
- Read. I read a bit...and I listen to a lot of books on tape; I enjoy Audible and have listened to more great books while driving.
- Take Time for Yourself. Downtime is huge. Take time to go on outings with your family, go on a date-night with your spouse, or find a quiet place to just sit and relax.
- Have a Morning Routine. On school days, I find myself preaching this to the kids often; we are creatures of habit and when we take the time to get into a routine, we set ourselves up for success.
- Have an Evening Routine. On the other end of the day, having an evening routine can help to prepare us for the following day.
- Attend Church/Pray Regularly. Spiritual renewal helps me to get into the right frame of mind for my week.
Have a great week!
"If we keep doing what we're doing,
we're going to keep getting what we're getting."
Dr. Stephen R. Covey