Sharpening the Saw


By Phil Harwood

It’s a simple question. What will you do differently in 2020? I’ve been working on my answers to this question and I’m ready to share them with you. They might surprise you!

There is a section of pine trees on our property that have been decimated by insects. Every time the wind blows, another tree falls. So, I’ve been using my chainsaw a lot recently, logging these fallen trees in preparation for splitting and stacking the wood for firewood. 

If you’ve ever used a chainsaw for an extended period of time, you know that the teeth of the chain quickly become dull. It’s time-consuming and can be frustrating to stop and sharpen the chain but you know that continuing to work with a dull chain is unproductive. 

Professionally, we also have to take time from “productive work” to “sharpen the saw” in order to maintain a high level of productivity. This is a foundation of the classic “working smarter, not harder” concept. When we regularly sharpen the saw, we are working smarter. Our work is more productive and more rewarding. 

But if we fail to do so, because “we’re too busy” or whatever reason we come up with, we are simply working harder, with less productivity and fewer rewards. A dull chain will cut wood but the process is greatly slowed and more gas/oil are consumed. Using more time and resources to produce the same amount of work is the definition of working harder.

Sharpening the saw includes anything that makes you more productive. This may be something in the area of professional development (GrowTheBench!), education, or training. Or it may simply be a change in the way you approach your work.

What am I doing to “sharpen the saw” and work smarter in 2020?

  1. Strategically refocusing my time. In 2019, I was focused on recording new content for This took up a great deal of time and energy. In 2020, I am refocusing my time and energy on other strategic areas for, such as live events (big news coming…), strategic partnerships, and expanding our roster of content contributors.
  2. Expanding my coaching business. In 2019, I made a decision to develop more coaching relationships versus taking on new consulting clients. Coaching has always been a rewarding part of my service offerings but a smaller portion. In 2020, coaching will become a primary service. 
  3. Expanding my professional network. In 2019, I made a decision to expand my engagement with other coaches & consultants. In 2020, I plan to take this to the next level. I believe strongly in the Biblical principle that “iron sharpens iron” and intend to live by this principle more fully going forward. 
  4. Personally, making some lifestyle changes for 2020. I won’t bore you with the details. In a nutshell, I plan to “work smarter” in several very specific areas. The principles that apply to our professional lives also apply to our personal lives. 

I hope that my list will inspire you to create your own list. What will you do in 2020 to sharpen the saw? 

Now go forth. 

Tags: Growth , Resolution , Change , Strategy ,