Invest in Yourself- the 7th of 7 Steps to Improving Your Leadership

What could be more important than investing in yourself on a regular basis? Your ability to earn money is probably your most valuable financial asset. Does it not make sense to invest in yourself regularly? Sharpen the Saw is the 7th habit in Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Sharpening your saw is in my opinion the most important step to becoming a better leader for the long run.

The author teaches a balanced renewal:

1. Physical: Exercise, Nutrition, Stress Management
2. Social / Emotional: Service, Empathy, Synergy, Intrinsic Security
3. Spiritual: Value Clarification & Commitment, Study & Prayer
4. Mental: Reading, Visualizing, Planning, Writing

Do you wonder how you will have time to invest in yourself regularly, even daily? Are you too busy to invest in yourself? Covey tells a story on page 287 about a man who has been manually cutting down a tree for over 5 hours. You ask the man, “Why don’t you take a break and sharpen the saw? I’m sure it would go a lot faster.” The man replies, “I don’t have time to sharpen the saw, I’m too busy sawing.” So it goes with investing in yourself. Taking time to invest and renew yourself is an activity that is not urgent but very important. You may remember from Put First Things First that this is called a Quadrant 2 activity. OK, that helps to illustrate the importance but doesn’t make it any easier. So here are a few ideas on how to renew yourself that are manageable. Pick the ones that work for you or come up with your own:

-Subscribe to a blog like LittleThingsMatter. Find one on a topic that interests you and will help you grow professionally or spiritually. This way, you can sprinkle balanced renewal into your daily routine of reading your e-mail. A few examples are listed below.

-Exercise on a stationary bike or stair machine 3 to 4 times a week for 20 minutes. The experts say that moderate exercise pays big dividends. You can read while on a stationary machine which allows you to renew yourself in several of the balanced areas at once.

-Go for a walk with a family member or friend after dinner. This allows you to get moderate exercise in an enjoyable manner while renewing a relationship.

-Take a few minutes to read and pray first thing when you get up in the morning. Your home should be quiet and you should be able to focus on renewal before you engage in your busy day.

-Take a few minutes at the end of the day if you are not a morning person….

-Read something you enjoy.

-Make a committment to investment in yourself significantly & annually. This could be going to a seminar, reading a book that you will put into action, or taking on a developmental project at work. You may want to consult with your boss on this.

-Make weekly or monthly investments.

-Read “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”-either again or for the first time.

I made a commitment to significant annual renewal and to make renewal part of my regular routine. This committment has played a major role in my development as a leader, husband, and father over the last 18 to 20 years. Let me challenge you to make a similar commitment to renew yourself. What can you do to make yourself a better leader and person today?

Please leave a comment below if you liked this article. You can also connect on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, subscribe via e-mail (right side bar), retweet, digg, or stumble this article. Your feedback is appreciated.

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A few blogs that I find helpful: LittleThingsMatter A Positively Blog Charles Spurgeon Nature Photography LeadershipFreak ALeanJourney Six Disciplines Jamie Flinchbaugh I’d be flattered if you subscribed to this blog (look in the right sidebar)

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About Christian Paulsen

Christian Paulsen is an Executive Consultant with 20 years of Lean Manufacturing. Chris adds value to organizations by driving process improvement and bottom line savings. Chris intends to help others by sharing the lessons learned after a quarter century of operational leadership, marriage, parenting, and even longer as a Cubs fan. Your comments on this blog are welcome. You can also connect with Chris via LinnkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook in the right sidebar. Chris welcomes your comments. Christian's professional services are available by contacting him through LinkedIn (right side bar)
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18 Responses to Invest in Yourself- the 7th of 7 Steps to Improving Your Leadership

  1. I agree sharpening the saw is the most important step in becoming a good leader.

    Websters definition of habit: a : a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiologic exposure that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance b : an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary.

    So creating a new habit that just becomes a matter of routine is just a matter of repeating the action over and over again.

    Also I think that it important to have good habits that we pass onto our kids. They learn by example and having routines makes life a little more organized and gives times for other things.

    • Sheila,

      Excellent points. It’s best if you can make balanced renewal or sharpening the saw part of your routine. I’m sure there is a reason why Stephen Covey called it the 7 Habits of Highly Efficient People and not 7 Steps to Being More Efficient. Anyone who is truly living these 7 Habits will pass good habits on to their children. Thanks for your insight.

      All the best,
      Chris

  2. Dan Rockwell says:

    Hi Chris,

    Nicely done. Put the oxygen mask on yourself before you try to help others.

    Lincoln said: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

    Thanks for linking back to Leadership Freak blog. You are an encourager.

    Cheers,

    Leadership Freak
    Dan Rockwell

  3. Lana says:

    Good points & ideas, of course. BTW, don’t know if you’re familiar with it, but I’m currently reading “Brag; How to Toot Your Own Horn Without Blowing It” by Peggy Klaus. You might want to check it out.

  4. Chris,
    I love this post and really needed to read it. Lately I’ve been “too busy sawing” and I know better. Back to the basics I go.

    • Hi Catherine,

      Thank you for reading my post and for your comments. I’m pleased that it was beneficial for you. It’s very easy to get very busy sawing and focusing on the most urgent tasks in today’s world. You have noticed the quote that Dan Rockwell provided. Lincoln said: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Thanks again.

      Best wishes,
      Chris

  5. I like the idea of “sharpening the saw” and love that Lincoln quote! I have always been a believer in investing in yourself. I would like to add going to seminars or retreats to that list. There is something to be said for spending a weekend “sharpening the saw.” Good blog! #blogboost

    • Matha,

      Thanks for your comments and insight. Seminars and retreats can be very rewarding and are a great way to renew, refresh, and sharpen the saw. I appreciate your feedback.

      All the best,
      Chris

  6. Christian-
    I loved this blog topic. It is so important that we regularly sharpen the saw. I know a tool i use that greatly has benefited me is podcast. I have an ipod and or I live in Los Angles and so I am stuck in traffic a lot so listening to a podcast or audio teaching can sharpen my saw while waiting in traffic. Makes it so I dont get frustrated being stuck in traffic. Plus the great thing is there is so many quality and free podcast out their that it doesnot even cost anything to learn these days.

    • Chad,

      Using the commute to listen to audio teachings is a great way to sharpen the saw. It sounds like a good stress management tool as well. I have been blessed with a short commute for the last several years but have listened to tapes and CD’s when stuck with the long drive in the past. It certainly can turn was seems like a waste into a time of renewal. Thanks for sharing such a great idea.

      Best regards,
      Chris

  7. SM Joyner says:

    Chris,
    I enjoyed reading this post. To be a good leader, it is important to stay teachable, see people and their needs, and also understand your own needs too. I like to say you can’t draw water from a dry well. Self-renewal is important not only for yourself. It is important for those that need you. I used to have a hard time with the concept and I think many women do, especially if you have family responsibilities. It seems selfish taking that time to invest in yourself. However, if you continually give and don’t take the time to replenish yourself, feelings of resentment and bitterness creep in. If you start feeling that way, then you are just about out of water. A dry well isn’t much good to anyone.

    I also recommend John C. Maxwell, another good author on leadership. I have a number of his books and plan to revisit some of his works.

    Thanks,
    Shana

    • Shana,

      Thank you for your comments and for reading this blog. John Maxwell is excellent. I subscribe to his blog so his posts get e-mailed directly to my inbox. You have good points about staying teachable and those around you. 7 Habits elaborates on investing in relationships too. Thanks again.

      Best,
      Chris

  8. Sharpening the saw is definitely a vital part of being an effective leader and person. I regularly have “quiet time” in the morning. During that time, I read, think, meditate and write. I also take time at the end of every day to write what I’m grateful for in my journal. And I love to go for walks in nature. When we’re filled up, renewed and growing, we’re much more able to give and be effective in our lives.

  9. My coach is always reminding to take time for self care. I tend to rush into the day full speed ahead. When I take time to sharpen the saw things always go better.

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