Habit 7: Sharpen The Saw: 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People

Sharpen The Saw is a conversation about planning and continuous improvement.

Sharpen The Saw discusses self-renewal, self-care, self-respect and self-improvement… so as the last chapter of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I believe this chapter also represents why most people initially decide to read this personal change book… their desire to improve. I see the previous 7 Habits as being foundational… and if you work with them, the previous 7 Habits build a very necessary and helpful foundation that will serve you well.

So… how do you Sharpen Your Saw?

The Pace Of Change: Using Myself As An Example

The pace of change keeps accelerating, which I feel makes it even more important that we focus on improving ourselves and/or our organizations. Millennials and Generation Z employees are on a never-ending quest for knowledge and self-improvement… and Gen X and Boomers were self-improvement pioneers. As owner of a corporate training company, ongoing learning and helping others with personal change is critical; so I Sharpen The Saw in areas like:

  • What is changing in my industry?
  • What interests my clients?
  • How can I improve?
  • How can I help others improve?
  • What interests me?

I also Sharpen The Saw by focusing on personal well-being. Quiet time, rest, exercise, giving back to my community, enjoying family / friends, being creative, enjoying art and music are all activities for which I make time.

To help us all figure out our relationship with time, personal change and… Sharpening The Saw… Stephen R. Covey balances the concept across 4 main categories (or dimensions).  These dimensions are:

Sharpen The Saw: 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People

Stephen R. Covey

  • Physical
  • Spiritual
  • Mental
  • Social / Emotional

Whether we are speaking of people, departments or organizations, Sharpening The Saw must be balanced across these four ‘dimensions’… otherwise an imbalance would be created. We can offset an imbalance for a while, but not long-term. When organizations ignore four-dimensional balance, inefficiencies, defensiveness and lack of synergy (Habit 6) ensues creating a loss in productively, customer satisfaction and ultimately profitability.

Ongoing Process of Sharpening The Saw

Sharpening The Saw is an ongoing process of personal change – not something you can binge – like your favourite TV show on Netflix (which I sometimes do). You need to define your own balanced, four-dimensional life to be successful! If you are a leader, I believe part of your role is to help the people who report into you and/or look up to you (your family), explore these dimensions and establish goals for themselves.

Stephen quotes Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “Treat a man as he is (or as you see him), and he will remain as he is.  Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer and politician born August 28, 1749 and died March 22, 1832. Wikipedia

We all have busy lifestyles; therefore it’s no surprise we have to insert Sharpen The Saw into our Time Management best practices and make it part of our Quadrant II priorities (Habit 3). Our future success and ongoing reputation depends on us taking action.

Stephen says, “It means exercising all four dimensions of our nature, regularly and consistently in a wise and balanced way.  To do this we have to be proactive.”  I love the words exercise and balance.  Proactive means we have to plan for it – to put it in our schedule and protect the time (Quadrant II), for all 4 of the above mentioned dimensions.

Self improvement takes time – just like working out and getting fit.  Stephen sees self-improvement as a never-ending upward spiral of ‘Learn, Commit, Do’. Personally I see it as a never-ending spiral of ‘Commit, Learn, Do.’ No matter what your preference of order of those three words, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is something you have to be mindful of and continually practice.

Covey: The Upward Spiral

Stephen R. Covey

When you begin working out, a trainer will help you receive maximum benefit and minimize injury. In the same vein, a personal coach will help guide your personal change and keep you on track.

What Is Your Purpose? What Are You Committed To? 

If you work with a personal coach, get them to help you define what your motivator is.  What do you want to do / be?  What are your values?  How do your core competencies need to migrate?  What inspires you?  How can you live with purpose and integrity… following our values. How can you stay focused on:

  • Win/Win… Habit 4
  • Listening… Habit 5
  • Synergize… Habit 6

Sharpening the Personal Saw helps center you

Sharpening the Organizational Saw helps prepare

  • Religion
  • Meditation / Mindfulness
  • Music / Reading
  • Nature walks / Bike Rides
  • Gardening
  • On-The-Job Training / Cross-training
  • Other / Evening Professional Development Resources
  • A focus on productivity and quality
  • A focus on Important Work vs Busy Work

Sharpening The Saw is anything that will help you renew your energy and keep you balanced.

Again, how do you Sharpen Your Saw (keep the four dimensions in mind)? Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 5.59.13 PM

How you sharp the saw is personal.  For example, what if you took one night / week without TV to get in touch with your values? Instead of TV you:

  • Read for pleasure (not work)
  • Read for school or a night class
  • Made art
  • Cooked all night with your family / friends because you love to cook not because you have to cook.
  • When to the gym – and enjoyed the steam room
  • Meditated
  • Went to a play (not a movie)
  • Walked in the park / went snowshoeing
  • Listened to music
  • Hand wrote a journal – or letters to friends / family

I’ve recently found a pod cast series called ‘On Being’ with Krista Tippett and I am enjoying how she explores the complications and beauty of human life. Krista is helping me sharpen my spiritual saw. (@Beingtweets)

Stephen R. Covey suggests targeting 1 hour / day to focus on Sharpening Your Saw.  If that works for you then terrific.


Over time remembering to Sharpen Your Saw will get easier to plan and do. Whatever you choose will become a feeder into a life of quality – the glass half full – abundance of your life.

Happy communicating.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

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I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

Reference Material:

  • Stephen R. Covey: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People ©
  • Michael Bungay Stanier: Do More Great Work ©
  • Walter Isaacson: Steve Jobs
  • My experience

About Bruce Mayhew
Bruce Mayhew is a Leadership Coach, Keynote Speaker and Corporate Trainer who builds strong client and co-worker relationships that give clients a competitive advantage. Our training and development programs include: ■Generational Differences ■Effective Business Email Writing ■Email Etiquette ■Phone Etiquette ■Behaviour Event Interviewing (BEI) ■Mindfulness ■Using Linkedin to Build Client Relationships ■Objective Setting Made Easy

One Response to Habit 7: Sharpen The Saw: 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People

  1. Pingback: Judge Ray Harding

I’ll enjoy reading your thoughts and your experiences.

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