30 August 2011

On a Quest to Simplify - Slow Down

Whatever we do in life, we tend to compete. Whether it is with others, ourselves or time. We are a competitive tribe. Most advices about being productive include a point about setting your alarm and trying to beat it. After following such instructions it is only natural to loose track of the competition, to forget where we are going or to simply lose motivation.

Once we've been through several competitions of the same kind we learn our lessons and figure out the reasons. But it is not always so. We often have to go through the same cycle again and again and loose precious time until we realize that only by slowing down we can move steadily ahead.

To illustrate what I mean I will tell you the little fable about the lumberjack who found a very well-paid job, and excited as he was, started happily cutting trees right away. 

The first day he cut more than any other lumberjack in the company. The second day he continued working vigorously but could not exceed his first day's results although he put more effort into it. By the tenth day he got the worst results of all lumberjacks. Now the question was if he was going to keep his job.

When he got called to the supervisor's office he was a nervous wreck. The poor man was giving everything that depended on him to serve well and yet, his results were way below mediocre. After telling his story, he almost cried when his supervisor asked him: How often did you sharpen your axe, my friend?

And.. yes, it turned out that the lumberjack was so blinded by the bright idea to do his job perfectly, that he forgot to sharpen his axe every day after work, so that it could help him achieve his goal.
Photo: Jason Jones

Putting all your efforts in making your dream come true is not enough. You need to take care of yourself, take some time off once in a while, change your point of view, change the environment and ultimately... sharpen your axe, my friends, before you head to the next task. Have a neat plan on how to emotionally support yourself, so that you keep on achieving great results!

You might want to read the other posts in the series On a Quest to Simplify:

How do you reward yourself after a job well done? Tell us in the comments.


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed the lumberjack story.
    The moral of it is especially relevant in our time.

  2. Thanks for sharing that story, what an inspiring message.

    It's funny that I read this post today, today I had one of my most productive days in a long time, and I know it's because I took a little break and changed my point of view.

    I am looking forward achieving these results everyday, as I work slow and steady all season long.

    Everyday Inspired

  3. Thank you for sharing this! I think I need to sharpen my axe. =) Really, I need to step back from my Etsy shop and my blog, set some goals and figure out what I really want. I love to create and I get caught up in the "competition" with myself - sales, views, favorites, Google Analytics stats.

    Thanks for this message today!

  4. Love that story Sonya and so true. Sometimes we get so lost in the "achieving of goals" that we forget what life is all about:):) Many years ago, an old boss told me that I never took time to appreciate my successes because I was already onto my next achievement:) That was an eye-opener to me and since then, I have made it a point to "stop" often to just appreciate:) Wish you lived close by, what wonderful chats we will have:):) Hugs!

  5. I've never heard that lumberjack story before, but I like it! I've been making more of an effort lately to slow down and enjoy my life, because who can enjoy anything when they're constantly stressed out?!

  6. Timely advice, and really great story.
    "Sharpen Your Axe" will now stay with me forever... Thank you for that!

  7. Excellent, and much needed advice! Thank you for a great post!!!

  8. Absolutely! And such a great story to go along with it. I am trying really hard to take care of myself more these days. It's not easy when you are trained not to have breaks! I put so much into my businesses, my wedding, my fiance's job/schedule, my sick dog... Always feeling pressured to do the best job I can, and always burning myself out. Your posts are always wonderful reminders about what is ultimately important. :)


  9. i have really enjoyed this series ... simplifying is a daily work in progress for me !!

  10. Fantastic fable, I love it! Fables are fabulous. :) Thank you for sharing that one, Sonya; it's got a good moral! :)

  11. I just hopped over to your blog from therikrakstudio, and I must say I am quite enjoying the simplify series you have going.

    I feel that I used to be pretty good about taking care of myself when I needed some downtime, to stop, eat some chocolate or take a nice relaxing bath (as a kid I was the queen of self-directed naptime), but there are times when obligations are high or a giant project is looming when it is easy to forget about my needs for the tasks at hand.

    I think I may write myself a note to see when I wake up that says "don't forget to sharpen your axe!"

    Thanks for sharing your insight and best of luck on your quest!

  12. Great post. Thanks for the reminder that we all need to sharpen our axes!

  13. Oh this is so true. Every now and then I want to trick myself with some new time management tips to squeeze another project in my schedule, only to realize that I can't be happy on a fast track. and internet only makes it harder. ;)

  14. The challenges and seductions of modern life are immense, Maša, I agree, and maybe that is what makes our achievements priceless! Living a slow and minimalistic life in the quietness of a faraway farm is easy. But anyone who can do this in the middle of the city jungle is a hero for me!

  15. Nice for some. My problem is I need to speed up and do something useful!

    1. I see your point. Especially when I noticed when you wished your readers Merry Christmas! But anyway, once you speed up you will reach the point of wanting to slow down, so... why go all that way?