Sharpen your axe

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One of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (a book with some good advice) was to "sharpen your axe." Its example was two woodcutters with dull axes. One of them thought there was too much to do to sharpen the axe, and went ahead and cut with the dull axe, and had a slow, painful day's work. The other one invested time in sharpening, had a much easier time, and cut more wood in the same total amount of time.

There are a lot of dull axe situations in life, and it's easy to get caught up in thinking there's no time for sharpening. And there may not be the time in a real emergency. But if you want to make less of your life feel like an emergency, invest the time in sharpening.

Here are some of my dull axes. When my bike tire pressure is low and the drive chain needs lubricating, biking is slower, harder, and less pleasant. When I don't keep written track of the things I need to do, I waste time and energy worrying about whether I'm forgetting something, and reminding myself about them. When I let my work areas get cluttered, I waste time looking for things, and don't feel like using my work areas.

This is a close relative of Jen's maintenance post from Wednesday, and my earlier posts on margins and the high cost of poor planning. Picking up spares and frugal health are examples of this, as is avoiding clutter and not skimping on your important tools, and, well, most of what we say here.

The time and effort savings are most obvious, and the easiest way to demonstrate this point and to persuade of its value. But the more valuable part of this is making the things you do feel easier and more pleasant, keeping your daily activity from seeming to be drudgery and hardship, preserving your mental, physical, and emotional energy and health.

This is being frugal with your inner economy, and that's the important one. Keep that in order, and you'll always be able to deal with the external.

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