Sharpen the Axe

‘Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe’ famously said Abraham Lincoln. But the problem has been that we mostly have our hands full and are usually hard-pressed for time, and we get two hours to chop the tree, which leaves us much less time or no time to sharpen our axe.

At work, we invariably end up spending most of our time in routine urgent tasks which occupy the first quadrant of Stephen Covey's famous time management matrix – ‘important and urgent’. These are what we know as 'fire-fighting' tasks and intimidating deadlines. We know that we need to reduce the size of this column by increasing the size of the other quadrant ‘not urgent but important’. We are aware that this is to be achieved by spending more time on tasks like maintaining relationships, health and fitness, goals and objectives and personal development, yet we get caught up in the grind and end up chasing deadlines.

With the worldwide corona virus outbreak and the country in lock-down we are relatively free from the daily rigmarole at workplace and the need to fire-fight and chase deadlines. It is an opportunity for us to increase the second quadrant and spend more time on things that truly matter.

This may be the right time to focus on few other important things that are part of our work which requires our attention but we were not able to give adequate time to. These could be conducting employee surveys, drafting policies, improving the SOPs, identifying the gaps in the system, perfecting a process, identifying employee training needs, creating and analysing systems and procedures. This may be an appropriate time to consider working on all these and utilise the break effectively. Let us utilise this time to reflect, research, analyse, develop, improve, perfect and organise our systems, processes and policies. We will be ready with our axe sharpened to take on the challenge of the coming days post the corona virus pandemic.

By Vandana Madhavkumar