Sharpening the Saw…

Mitch Schneider
September 11, 2020

Stephen Covey wrote about it in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The concept is simple. We perform better when prepared and sometimes that preparation includes taking a break.

That can mean forcing yourself to stop if only to assess the situation. To evaluate the terrain. We had a technician who used to drive my father nuts. He would be assigned a job, walk over to the vehicle, and then just stand there. To my father, it was wasted time. But, what he was doing was sharpening the saw. He was working his way through the job in his head building a list of everything he would need to complete the task he was assigned. When he was finished he would fill his tool cart with every tool he knew he would need, raided the stockroom, and requisitioned what he didn’t have from our local parts suppliers.

Once he had done that, he moved to the vehicle and never left it until it was done! In the end, he was infinitely more productive than many of our other technicians because there was no wasted time.

Force versus Impact

Buried deep in the idea of sharpening the saw is the idea of Force versus Impact, Chapter 39, in Misfire: What to Do When Things Aren’t Running on All Cylinders. Force versus impact is all about the precise application of force to achieve a strategic and desired impact. It’s the difference between hammering away at something blindly in the hope you can beat it into submission and focusing specifically on exactly what needs to be done and nothing else! It’s the difference between brute force and finesse.

This is what my desk looked like a little more than five hours ago. A saw deeply in need of sharpening! It was, and—too often—is, the place paper goes to die! I’ve suggested that I’m visual and that’s my excuse for having everything where I can see it. But, that’s all it is. An excuse.

There are plenty of other things I could have been doing for the past five hours. But, cleaning my office wasn’t a part of the plan. However, finding stuff often is.

Both of us know that finding anything in that mess is unlikely. So, I strategically applied force to achieve a specific result. I sharpened the saw and feel pretty good about tackling whatever comes next. It doesn’t sound like a lot. But, it is.



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