How do you sharpen your saw?

Chess pieces
I just finished a chess game against my smartphone; an exercise I regularly do since Autumn 2010. A that time, I was battling against my newly bought windows 7 laptop, to keep my mind alert. Does it work? I don’t really know though I would like to share with you why I started this habit and few others…

It all began few years ago when I got my virtual hands on a copy of the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by the now regretted Stephen R. Covey. A book everyone should read to question how we could, by ourselves, significantly improve the quality of our lives.

Among the habits which impressed me at the time was the #7. Not because of its meaning in numerology, rather by its intriguing title: Sharpen your saw.

The analogy comes from a lumberjack who is sawing for several days straight. His efforts becoming less and less productive with the time as cutting through wood dulls the blade. One of the solution is to periodically sharpen the saw to keep being efficient.
My understanding of it was to find ways to keep my mind alert, open, constantly on the search for the up to date information to develop my practice and differentiate. Later on, I included body part there with exercising.

To me, the book was not much about what to do to be more efficient. It provided me with some salutary and valuable why to do some things. As you can imagine, I was looking for ways to improve myself: as a Soft skills trainer and also as a future employee, entrepreneur, whatever life would offer as opportunity. For career development, lasting relationships, valuable networking and so on, I wanted to learn what I could to increase my knowledge and strengthen my inborn skills, whichever they are, to stand out and take the best out of my life. Isn’t the best way to prepare for anything to keep on learning new things or developing skills?

How do I implement this?

Hopefully, it didn’t all come at once. I would have run away before even starting. My approach was to stay open and ready for opportunities which might arise. Do practical things and learn about them and myself on the go. Here are some elements I would like to share with you. Maybe you could provide additional ideas or question the non exhaustive list…

Mind games

I started to regularly play chess against electronic devices or anyone willing to play. The variety of the game and complexity of some situations help to exercise my analytical mind, search for options and constant look for alternative to sacrifices, while improving my skills at the game itself.
For the electronic versions, windows 7 and my android app can increase difficulty of the parties so I can level up. I also picked some books to learn more of the game subtleties.

Books reading

For my work, my practice as Trainer and for my pleasure, I tend to loot all the books I can find and then take the time to read as much as I can. I turned out that I cut my TV time to do this. :)

Some months ago, a friend of mine made me discover Goodread.com which allows me to track my readings and share my discoveries in a new kind of social media.
I specially like a book reading challenger which is built in. You set the number of books you want to read in a year and every time you are done with one you register. It reminds you about how well you are doing.
I even joined a Book Club.

RSS feed

In order to be aware of the development of topics, technologies or just for the sake of following interesting people, I find RSS feeds a very good way to keep track of elements of interest. Selected information just pop up when there is an update on the site, no need to hunt for the latest publications once you have found valuable sources.

Personal Projects

Another way for me to trigger the saw sharpening is to develop training projects. The past 12 months, I created Youth Trainers Academy, Leadership Development Program and took part in the 2012 edition of Leadership Summer School. All marvellous opportunities to learn from fellow trainers I have the honour to work with.
Having to deliver quality contents tend to mobilise my energy into finding up to date or innovative information to renew my own knowledge and develop my practice.
Same goes with my involvement into the Innovation project team at my work.

Learning

Next to accumulating knowledge, I also want to learn new skills such as drawing, coding or designing IT systems, etc.
Once more, thanks to my network, I discovered Coursera.org which provides amazing courses from top institutions for free. My first courses are starting in few weeks. You may hear about my experience then. :)
I am also regularly following lifehacker.com and learn things that might be handy, such as writing this blog. :D
Youtube is an inextinguishable  source of tutorials of any kind which also helps one to learn about many things. Such as how to effectively pack your luggage.

Exercising

As shared on a previous blog, I’m lucky to have a sport centre few levels below my office where I can regularly go and train. Moreover, when on trip, I am striving to run or exercise once or twice a week as a habit to get the body on the move and sharp.

Sharpen your saw

There are many other ways one could sharpen one’s saw to improve technical skills, learn from the people around our networks or develop ourselves. I turned sharpening my saw from a concept into concrete actions which are meant to bring benefits. If for any reason one of these actions doesn’t fit, I just modify or change it without guilt as the most important when I started this process was to realise why I wanted to develop more… and my next big challenge to come is MEDITATION…

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