I shared this Abe Lincoln quote with a client and I love it so much, I want to share it with you.
“If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I would spend the first four sharpening my axe.”
Sometimes we fret that we are “not getting enough done.” When it comes to writing or any other project, we often create warped demands and expectations because that is how we are wired to measure our productivity, with deadlines and goals. If we don’t meet those self-imposed bars of judgment, we let it affect our opinion of ourselves.
Instead, if we can see that the “work” we are doing is not just the tangible end-product, but also the intangible happenings that are occurring invisibly, we will feel so much better. When it comes to a book, for sure, the big work is the upfront thinking-it-through. The actual writing flows so much easier when you do the prep and the planning.
My husband knows this well. Any household project is done wonderfully because he envisions it and calculates and calibrates and estimates and thinks through various what-ifs. If he were to just barrel ahead, a project could end up costing more time, energy and money because of variables he didn’t take into account.
Think of Abe and the chopping of a tree. Yes, we want good tools that are in good working order. I do much better with a sharp pencil and a printer that has ink, for example. We also want to plan out that whacking that tree is not going to have it fall on the house. A little pondering first is a beautiful thing. When it comes to writing, that pondering gets you in touch with your real purpose.
If you have a task at hand and are criticizing yourself for not being further along, cut yourself some slack. The real effort is not always visible. Sharpening your axe can be many things. Letting things perc for a bit (not forever) can be tremendously helpful.
Let Abe’s words remind you that the job will get done. When you are strategic and patient, the doing will flow so much easier. And when it’s time, grab that axe and get ‘er done.