Taking a break and the Four Dimensions of Renewal

By Jo Clay 

All too often we hear people say they are too busy. Too busy to take a break, too busy to plan, too busy to think about things….. but do we ever ask ourselves if  we are just busy being busy or actually being productive? 

I’m a huge fan of the late Stephen Covey, an American educator, author,  businessman and keynote speaker.  In his book “The 7 habits of Highly  Effective People”  Covey reiterates time and time again the importance of  looking after ourselves and in his words taking time to “sharpen the  saw”. 

“What are you doing?” 

“Can’t you see?” Comes the impatient reply. “I’m sawing down the tree” 

“You look exhausted” you exclaim. “How long you been at it?” 

“Over five hours he returns and I’m beat! This is hard work!” 

“Well why don’t you take a break for a few minutes and sharpen that saw?  I’m sure it would go a lot faster.” 

“I don’t have time to sharpen the saw, I’m too busy sawing!” 

This simple metaphor describes how many of us feel and act every day but  Covey argues that by taking some simple measures to “sharpen the saw” we  can become much more effective, everyday! 

This practice works on the basis that every day we make time to take positive actions in each of these four areas and over time these become habits which lead to a happier, healthier and more productive you. 

As a team and as individuals we each work hard to make sure we have a balance across these areas and through effective time management, mainly prioritising what is important rather than just being busy, we have  become a lot more effective.  Both in and out of work. 

To do this as individuals is really important but it’s just as critical that we do this as a team.  At Empower- Be The Change we always make time to get together for regular team briefs. A great example of this was when the board and staff came together for an afternoon led by one of our directors for a  strategy session.  Over 4 hours we reviewed what’s gone well and what we should keep doing more of, things that aren’t working, our “time wasters” and things to stop doing, the strong partnerships we have and those that we could build, reaffirmed our values and focus as a  social enterprise and created a 90 day focused action plan. 

It was a simple exercise but one that could so easily have been pushed off the to-do list as unimportant, seen as something we didn’t have time for.  But four hours spent sharpening the saw has now bought us back so much more time, energy and resource for our next round of course delivery and business activities. 

Another great example of this is our strategy around quieter summer months. As a team, we decided to put a hold on course delivery over the month of August to take a much-needed break to sharpen the saw. In between pockets of annual leave, we will still be in work but you’re more likely to see us in a café, walking or working from home as we mix up our working habits to truly “sharpen the saw” and feed our creativity to make our next round of programmes even more empowering for our participants. 

If you want to know more about how you can “sharpen the saw” and embed these simple habits check out our range of courses here.

David Roberts, Welsh Rugby Union, Game Changer North

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