Sharpening the Axe: The Art and Science of Working Smarter in 2024
Abraham Lincoln’s famous quote on sharpening the axe before chopping down a tree contains timeless wisdom. In today’s fast-paced world, efficiency matters more than ever. Working smart by getting your proverbial axe razor sharp can transform your productivity and prevent fatigue.
- Relationships: Curate your inner circle deliberately as influencers – phase out energy vampires
- Finances: Automate savings and bills to establish effortless passive growth
- Health/Wellness: Prioritize brain/body care for sustainable peak performance
- Time: Ruthlessly apply 80/20 analysis to focus only on high-value activities
- Skills: Constantly hone abilities; aggressively apply new learning
As we wrap a turbulent 2024, I implore you to reassess across five key life areas to streamline and upgrade for the year ahead. Small daily improvements compound overtime into game-changing advantages. Take stock now so you enter 2024 fully equipped.
Relationships as Investments
You become who you surround yourself with. Audit your inner circle, keeping only intellectual sparring partners providing honest wisdom. Phase out the time and energy vampires zapping your reserves. Then actively network to meet new mentors. Build a personal board of advisors to sharpen you.
- Schedule recurring one-on-one meetings with a mentor, advisor or trusted friend. Discuss goals, challenges, ask for their wisdom.
- Arrange or attend a workshop, conference or meetup group around a passion interest to meet likeminded peers.
- Download a conversation starter app to rehearse fresh open-ended questions to try in social settings.
Automating and Optimizing Finances
Whether trimming unused subscriptions or automating savings via apps, optimize to let your money work itself. I love Ramit Sethi’s book, “I Will Teach You To Be Rich” to systematize bill payments and wealth generation. Also attack debt decisively through the Avalanche Method while budgeting wisely.
- Do a 30-minute “financial spring cleaning” to identify and cancel unused subscriptions through site aggregators.
- Establish automated transfers for day-after paycheck savings, bill payments through platforms or bank settings to remove workflow.
- Run internet searches for active coupons anytime shopping online and before major purchases with free browser extensions.
Long-Term Wellness of Body and Mind
Treating your physical and mental health prevents a quick burnout. Prioritize proper sleep, balanced nutrition, staying active and taking breaks to recharge dopamine receptors overloaded by too much screen time. I’m an evangelist for daily reading, learning new skills, and the Feynman Technique to deeply retain knowledge.
- Block schedule and location specific times during each weekday for movement – whether 5:30pm gym session or 11am hallway walk. Treat exercise appointments with importance of other tasks in calendar.
- Meal prep for lunches and basic dinners on Sundays so less mental decisions and ordering out during busy weeks.
- Institute 30-60 minute tech/social media timebox limits using apps to prevent endless dopamine draw and addictive distraction from priorities.
Spending Time Like Money
Time is the currency we can’t earn more of. Review activities sucking too many hours for too little output. Be ruthless applying Pareto’s 80/20 principle to focus on your vital 20% revenue-producing tasks, outsourcing or automating the rest. Ask “is this a ‘hell yeah’ activity” to filter obligations.
- Conduct a 30-minute time audit every Friday. Categorize the week’s activities by high/medium/low return and essential/non-essential. Identify any problem areas.
- Use the “2-Minute Rule” for low-priority tasks. If it will take 2 minutes or less, do it right away rather than added it to your to-do list. Cross it off so it doesn’t keep occupying mental bandwidth.
- Block off specific chunks of time for focused strategic thinking and high dollar-per-hour revenue producing work when you have the most energy. Protect that calendar time as you would an important meeting.
- Install browser extensions like Todoist or Toggl to closely track where all your desktop/online minutes go daily. The awareness it provides around distraction sites and productivity patterns is game changing.
- When looking over your calendar, evaluate whether meetings that could have been emails are creeping in and adjust declining when possible. Also examine if you tend to overcommit time to external parties versus your own goals first.
Getting extremely precise with how each minute gets allocated reveals the sheer amount of time wasted on marginal activities. But being ruthlessly intentional to switch that towards high-impact priorities takes consistent discipline and tracking.
Ongoing Sharpening Through Feedback and Reflection
Like amino acids stimulate muscle growth after training tears fibers, constructive feedback accelerates your improvement. Regularly solicit critiques from mentors, peers and clients. Routinely reflect on learnings via journaling. Upgrade tools as well – are you metaphorically still shoveling snow when a mental snowblower could simplify the job?
By consistently maintaining yourself, 2024 brings elevated clarity towards your true goals paired with optimized energy spent realizing them. The dividends over a year of enhanced focus and reduced waste accumulate exponentially. Walk proudly into New Year’s 2024 with your sharpened axe ready to chop down any problem in your path.