How To Apply Stephen Covey’s Sharpen The Saw Concept In Your Life

If you’ve read the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective people by Stephen Covey, you’ll come across the chapter whereby he talks about “Sharpening the Saw”.

Basically the concept behind this is that when you’ve got 6 hours to cut down a tree, you want to spend 4 hours sharpening the axe. Another example would be to always make sure you take care of the golden goose that lays the golden eggs.

In this chapter, Stephen Covey begins by telling the story of a farmer who owned a golden goose. One day, this golden goose would lay one golden egg. The farmer wasn’t sure whether the egg was really gold so he took it to the mint store and confirmed that it was really gold. The farmer then became extremely wealthy so he begin upgrading his lifestyle and buying a bigger house and cars.

The golden goose would only lay one golden egg and the farmer would have to wait several weeks or even months for the next golden egg.

One day the farmer got frustrated with all his bills and expenses he decided to get all his golden eggs so he could pay off his debt. He went to the farm and killed the golden goose. When he opened it up, there was nothing in there. The farmer killed the golden goose that laid the golden eggs.

In life, we tend to work our asses off and burn out. This is the effect of not taking care of the golden goose that lays the golden eggs. By burning yourself out, you get sick, depressed, angry and lash out at your loved ones. Your work performance suffers and you end up losing your health and also your job.

You’ve killed the golden goose that lays the golden eggs. Therefore the moral of the story is to make sure that if you’re ever burning out or doing something to the extreme, be mindful that you may need to stop, take a break and take care of the golden goose which is you.

This could also be a car you enjoy driving. If you don’t take care of the car, the car will begin to deteriorate. If you don’t take care and maintain your computer, it will become slow and you won’t be able to work on it anymore. If you neglect your partner, they won’t feel appreciated and may look elsewhere. If you neglect your health, you fall apart.

Since reading that chapter many years ago, I’ve come up with 3 major ways of sharpening the saw and taking care of the golden goose that lays the golden eggs.

The 3 Major Ways To Sharpening The Saw

Regular Exercise and Clean Eating

Exercise is so important to maintain peak health. You know this, you know the importance of diet and eating healthy. However by understanding that exercising on a regular basis, you’re taking care of the golden goose that lay the golden eggs. You feel energetic, happier, healthier, look better and feel more confident.

For 5-6 times per week, I spend 45 minutes doing Pylometic Workouts at home. This consists of cardio and mixed strength training. As a result, I can think clearly and focus on my work. I also quit drinking (I used to drink every night) and as a result, I get better sleep and feel 100 times better.

Sharpen The Saw Sundays

I’ve been practicing this ritual for as long as I can remember. Every Sunday, I have a routine where in the morning, I take my laptop, go to a nice cafe by the river, order a large long black coffee and begin journalling my week. What happened that week, what wins, what losses, challenges faced, fixes, goals, monthly goals, yearly goals, books reading, what I learnt etc.

It may seem like a lot of work but it only takes me about an hour to “sharpen the saw”. Whenever I do this, I gain so much clarity on where I’m going and my week feels right. If I don’t sharpen the saw, I usually don’t accomplish that much during the week.

Be Alone

You need to have some alone time. I don’t know why but when you’re alone, you recover, rejuvenate and become reflective on what’s transpired. I’ve spent many hours and days being alone and I’m extremely content doing it. I feel so energised when reintegrate back into society and usually become wiser because of it.

Learn to be alone and you’ll conjure up some amazing ideas and new paradigms you can use in your life.


I highly recommend practicing Stephen Covey’s Sharpen The Saw concept. You need to take care of yourself and know where you’re going in life. If you don’t, you’ll end up cutting trees in the forrest with no focus or direction. You need time to fly up and look down from a helicopter point of view.

This can only be achieved by Sharpening the Saw and taking the Golden Goose that Lays the Golden Eggs, which is you.

Stay Strong and Be Relentless.

Khoa Bui

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Author: Khoa Bui

Khoa Bui is an author, trainer and chief editor of YouBeRelentless. He enjoys reading books on self development, success, productivity, money, relationships and leadership. When he’s not writing, he likes to enjoy a glass of red wine with a fine cuban cigar while watching the entire season of Entourage. You can check out Khoa’s work at

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