8 ways to sharpen the saw in 2018

By Greg Dardis / Guest Column

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, we tend to gravitate toward certain themes. We vow to get healthy, get organized and get a life. We set out to travel more, volunteer more and read more. We resolve to live large.

Exactly what that entails varies wildly, of course, as a quick scan of Twitter makes clear.

“In 2018, I will grow more food in the garden.”

“Redecorate the spare bedroom.”

“Shop local.”

“Keep up with conquering shyness.”

“More books, less phone.”

The resolution I suggest – one that can help with all the others – is to follow the advice of the late, great Stephen Covey and sharpen the saw.

Covey’s 1989 book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” garnered a global fol­lowing and enjoyed a five-year run on best­seller lists by blending self-help and business literature. The book sold more than 25 million copies worldwide, making the Utah father of nine a household name. His seven habits are: be proactive; begin with the end in mind; put first things first; think win-win; seek first to un­derstand, then to be understood; synergize; and sharpen the saw.

Covey explained the seventh habit by us­ing the analogy of a woodcutter who worked for several days straight and noticed a steady decline in his productivity. Then he stopped to sharpen his saw, which sped up his progress.

So too must we pause to sharpen the saw. The process of work – in this case, cutting wood – dulls the blade. And the duller the blade, the greater the effort required to keep sawing.

The solution is to routinely sharpen the saw. Investing in ourselves, Covey writes, is the sin­gle most powerful investment we can make.

I’m privileged to witness this truth on a daily basis, being in the business of executive train­ing, which is self-improvement applied to the workplace. Once our clients learn how to mas­ter a boardroom, a ballroom or a one-on-one meeting, they experience a surge in confidence. They find that one positive change begets an­other. One client started listening to classical music after taking one of our programs, because it made her feel like the class had: stimulated. Another revamped his wardrobe. Others asked for raises or proposed new initiatives.

It feels good to sharpen the saw. Here are eight ways you can do so in the new year.

1. Get more sleep. It’s time to stop pretend­ing you can operate on five hours and to mind the reams of research that demonstrate the cru­cial function of sleep. Set a bedtime reminder on your iPhone. Turn that aimless social media consumption into saw-sharpening sleep.

2. Get moving. Whether you’re hitting the gym, walking the hallways during lunch, es­chewing the elevator or parking farther away, moving your body will replenish your energy.

3. Make time for quiet. Tend to the spiritual dimension Covey spoke of: meditate, pray or light a candle and soak up some silence. This is your time to unplug.

4. Take up a hobby. Is there something you’ve always wanted to learn? Or a long-held passion you’ve shoved to the back burner? Watch a YouTube tutorial, buy some equipment and turn off the TV.

5. Connect with others. We all lead busy lives, but if you’re proactive about setting up opportunities for socializing, you’ll reap many benefits. When it comes to friendships, qual­ity matters more than quantity. Maybe an hour with one close friend is all it takes to sharpen the saw.

6. Eat better. It’s not easy to make those di­etary changes, but you’ll notice huge rewards when you feast on more greens and beans.

7. Read more. Read for fun, and rediscover how much more it nurtures the mind than Facebook. Read on your smartphone with Ama­zon’s free Kindle app or try Audible to take in good books on the go.

8. Enroll in executive coaching. A one-day program can deliver huge results. Consider courses in public speaking, consultative selling skills, business writing, image and etiquette or personal coaching.

Make time to sharpen the saw in 2018 and then watch your productivity soar.

Greg Dardis is the CEO of Dardis Communications, based in Coralville. For more information, visit www.dardiscommunications.com.