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Sharpen the Saw


This is Stephen Covey’s 7th habit from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  Basically, it means you need to take time for you.

My boss really likes to quote this, so I feel really silly repeating advice from my boss on my blog.  On the other hand, it’s a great excuse to not finish my work when I’m at home and I really need to finish my work but don’t want to.

Anyway, what Covey is trying to say, is that we need to have balance in our lives.  We need to balance work, family and social time, and our intellectual and physical needs.  Devoting too much of our time and energy to work actually makes us less able to be productive at work.

It’s illustrated by this little story:  A man is sawing boards.  A lot of boards.  The work is going really slowly.  It would go much faster if he stopped to sharpen his saw, then continue.  But he can’t stop to sharpen it, because he has so much work to do!

Our lives are like that a lot.  We have so many demands on our time.  I’m starting to recognize when I need to take a break.  When I’m grading papers, and my mind wanders in between every single question on one kid’s test, it’s time to take a break.

I also relate this to the idea of moderation.  Alan Alda (the actor who played Hawkeye on MASH) once said “All things in moderation, including moderation.”  His character actually said something really similar on a MASH episode: “If we don’t go crazy once in a while, we’ll all go crazy!”

I’m like this with junk food.  I’m usually pretty good about eating reasonably healthy: no soda, chips, cookies (and similar) or candy on regular days, and very little fast food.  And I try to avoid binge eating when I’m feeling down.  But yesterday after work, I went to the convenience store and bought Chips Ahoy, Kit Kat, and Pringles, and went home and ate them.

Splurging once in a while really can improve the mood.

I feel the same way about responsibility.  The thing about teaching is that in the classroom, I am responsible not only for the education but also for the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of my students while they are with me.  At home, I’m responsible for housework.  At church, I teach Sunday School.  Being responsible all the time sure is wearing!

So every now and then I blow of my responsibilities and go to a movie or something.  I feel the immediate pleasure of it and, the next day, ready to resume being a responsible adult.



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