Habit 7 - Sharpen the Saw

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

What does it mean to "sharpen the saw"?

In his book, Steven Covey explains it using a story:


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 returns, "and I'm beat! This is hard work."

"Well, why don't you take a break for a few minutes and sharpen the saw?" you inquire. "I'm sure it would go a lot faster."

"I don't have time to sharpen the saw," the man says emphatically, "I'm too busy sawing!"

Taking Time for Self-Renewal

Habit 7 is preserving and enhancing the best assest the you have - you. Sharpen the Saw keeps you fresh so that you can continue to practice the other six habits. In the story above, how much easier would it have been to cut down the tree with a sharp saw? Sometimes we work so hard that the we forget to take care of ourselves. We need to live our lives with balance by taking the necessary time to renew.


The Four Dimensions of Renewal

Covey maintains that there are four dimensions of our nature - physical, spiritual, mental, and social/emotional. It is important to take time in our lives to refresh and renew in each area. Here are some helpful tips for each:


Physical - eat healthy, exercize regularly, get plenty of rest each day.


Spiritual - spend time with nature, pray, meditate


Social/emotional - make meaningful connections with others, spend time with family, go out with friends


Mental - Read often, attend classes or workshops, teach something

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Source: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (Steven Covey, 1989)