Steven Covey's "The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People" is one of my favourite self-improvement books. It's full of great advice, but the habit of "sharpening the saw" is particularly powerful.
Sharpen the Saw means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have – you. It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual.
– Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
There's a lot of overlap between this and reducing toil. The main difference for me is that sharpening the saw is about learning and improving skills, whereas reducing toil is about automating and eliminating certain types of work.
Looking at my own routines, I've made some improvements over the years:
- Scheduled daily exercise
- Implemented GTD to keep myself more organized
- Structured my note taking so that I take more useful notes
- Set yearly goals via Groundhog Day Resolutions
A few areas I would like to improve:
- Re-balance my workdays
- Make time for deliberate practice
- Get better at writing emails quickly
- Learn how to use undo-tree with Emacs
- Improve my goal setting system
- Reduce time I spend on unproductive activities
There are a lot of areas where I'd like to improve. I'm pretty comfortable with the habit of weekly reviews for my GTD list, but I don't have any regular review system for my own processes. I've thought about using a structured approach like kaizen, but it might be overkill for this kind of situation.
I think the first step for me will be to set aside some time to take a full inventory of all my workflows, responsibilities, and routines. It's not very exciting, but I've been so focused on doing things that I haven't really taken the time to step back and examine where I could be doing it better (or if I need to be doing it at all).