May 4 – Sharpen your axe

Today a story that I’ve read years ago came to my mind during a team meeting where we were discussing the heavy work load in the team. The story goes like this:
Once upon a time there was a very strong wood-cutter. He asked for a job from a timber merchant and he got it. The pay was very good and so were the work conditions and for that reason the wood-cutter was determined to do his very best. His boss gave him an axe and showed him the area in the forest where he was to work.

The first day the wood-cutter cut down 18 trees. His boss was extremely impressed and said, “Well done. Keep it up. You are our best wood-cutter yet.” Motivated by his boss’s words, the wood-cutter tried even harder the next day, but he only cut down 15 trees. The third day he tried even harder but only cut down 10 trees.

Day after day the woodcutter cut down fewer and fewer trees. His boss came to him and told him that if he did not chop down more trees each day he would lose his job. The wood-cutter needed the job, so he tried harder and harder. He worked during his lunch breaks and tea breaks, but still he could not cut down enough trees. “I must be losing my strength” the wood-cutter thought to himself. He worked over-time, but still it was not enough.

Eventually his boss came to him and told him he was fired. The wood-cutter was really upset, but he knew that he had worked as hard as he could and just did not have enough time to chop more trees. He sadly handed his axe back.

The boss took one look at the axe and asked, “When was the last time you sharpened your axe?”

“Sharpen my axe?” the wood-cutter replied. “I have never sharpened my axe. I have been too busy trying to cut down enough trees.”
Perhaps you are thinking ” What a brainless guy! How could he not sharpen his axe!” But very often we are doing the exact same thing by immersing ourselves in endless to-do lists and jumping from one task to another without sharpening our axes by taking a break, doing something that we like or simply enjoying the silence. These are acts of self care that have a unwinding effect and help us refresh ourselves. The work related benefit of this is is proved focus, creativity and productivity. To put it simple words- working less hours and properly sharpening our axes could make us more productive compared to a situation of non- stop working. The next step is to experience this on your own. And spread the word when it starts working for you 🙂

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