Abe Lincoln’s Productivity Secret

Ab lincoln

A favourite quotations comes from Abraham Lincoln when he said

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

Not only was that a metaphor for how we might approach all work in which we engage, but it also represented his philosophy as a skilled woodcutter. He spent much of his early life working odd jobs including rail splitting.  Considering people regard him one of the top 3 presidents in American history, he applied it to his political career as well. So we can take his quote both figuratively and in a literal sense.

Pitfalls to Ax Sharpening and How to Do It Anyway 

Why do we avoid sharpening the ax? This usually is because we want to begin our projects right away.  We want to get moving so we can complete the tasks as quickly as possible.  Unfortunately, like the examples above reveal, going to work with a dull ax usually takes longer and makes the task less enjoyable.

We can motivate ourselves to sharpen the saw is to remember we face several risks for not sharpening:

  • We risk extending the time it takes to complete our goals.
  • We risk frustrating ourselves by having to stop several times midway through and having to sharpen.
  • We risk damaging the work and tools we already have
  • We risk decreased enjoyment of working through the project.

We want to enjoy what we’re doing don’t we?

The Ax Sharpening Challenge

I challenge you to take some time to review your goals and look for “ax sharpening” opportunities you can take with some of them.  If you are just starting out on one of your goals, ask yourself if you have everything you need to complete it.  If you are missing something, what is it?  Are you lacking information/education?  A tool or some software?  Do you have the right materials?  If you are in the middle of completing a goal, then it’s not too late to assess whether you have everything you need and to write it down.  Whatever you are missing, go out and get it.

By  Brad Isaac


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