Getting Things Done and Sharpening The Saw

Sometimes one has to do as much work, or more, preparing as they do executing.

At Search Influence, we follow a business operating system based on Scaling Up from Verne Harnish. Within that system is the setting of annual initiatives. Ours typically follow the Four Decisions outlined in the book.

For our “People” Initiative, which I am leading, we chose “Search Influence is focused on employee wellbeing.”

We decided that wellbeing could be physical or it could be spiritual, financial, personally improving or something else. The goal being to help the Search Influence team get better. And much of that “better” is about them and not us.

This week one of our leaders, who’s been with us for many years gave a Lunch & Learn about Getting Things Done.

Getting Things Done Audible Book Cover
Getting Things Done on Audible


Some team members seemed overwhelmed at the amount of work needed to get ready to effectively utilize this system.

The discussion reminded me of the famous quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.
Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.


Which of course let me to think of Covey’s 7 habits, the last of which is “Sharpening The Saw.”

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.


I thought these were really applicable to Getting Things Done and the pre-work, and ongoing pruning, one has to do to be effective with the system.

I wrote in our internal chat to one of our teams the following:

I thought of this quote during our discussion today of how overwhelming implementing GTD – or any organization system really – is.

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.
Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.


You’ll also note, that the 7th habit of Covey’s 7 habits of highly effective people is “Sharpen The Saw”.

I take these to mean that unless you take the time to prepare to do your best work, no amount of effort or focus will assure you are effective.

You have to do the work of preparing so that when you get down to work you are working on what matters rather than the first thing that comes to hand or mind.

So, as daunting as the effort of establishing your system, every minute spent on that will make every subsequent minute more effective.

And less stressful.

Get things done. Sharpen your saw. Namaste.

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