The start of a new year is the traditional time for many people to establish their resolutions for the coming twelve months. However, most will likely fall off the new year resolution bandwagon in less than thirty days. In fact only 8% of people that make these resolutions actually achieve them. (Source: New Years Resolution Statistics)

So as we begin a new year, the question I ask myself as well as others is how we can better position ourselves for continued learning, goal achievement, and ultimately greater levels of success.

What I am focusing on in this blog is the concept called ‘Sharpening the saw.’ Steven Covey has an entire chapter dedicated to this concept so you know it’s legit, but still it can be a struggle to successfully employ it, especially when we are up against strict deadlines.

If you are not familiar with ‘Sharpening the saw,’ I’ve included a version of a well known story that will bring you up to speed.

A woodcutter strained to saw down a tree. A young man who was watching asked “What are you doing?”

“Are you blind?” the woodcutter replied. “I’m cutting down this tree.”

The young man was unabashed. “You look exhausted! Take a break. Sharpen your saw.”

The woodcutter explained to the young man that he had been sawing for hours and did not have time to take a break.

The young man pushed back… “If you sharpen the saw, you would cut down the tree much faster.”

The woodcutter said “I don’t have time to sharpen the saw. Don’t you see I’m too busy?”

(Source: Living On The Real World)

Now, as a software developer I can attest to the situation represented by the wood cutter. Every day we are responsible for providing an update to the team on our progress towards a coding goal. Every two weeks we are working diligently to complete our jira tickets and produce quality code to move our applications forward. We can become so focused on the immediate task at hand that we fail to step back and improve our developer toolset which will ultimately help us produce higher quality code in a more efficient manner.

In fact what tends to happen is those two week sprints turn into three, four, and five week endeavours as our code gets pushed back by the QA team. (For some reason, the QA team always seems to have really sharp saws)

We should be looking at ways to sharpen the tools in our developer toolset on a daily basis. We took time to do this at our annual company meeting and it was great to take a step back and jump into a code kata. But we shouldn’t wait for annual meetings to employ this practice. Taking thirty minutes each morning to work through a code kata, or read a blog on a topic relevant to the type of code you are writing will only make the rest of the day that much more productive, or take a deep dive into a method or function that you use on a regular basis.

Even utilizing a tomato timer to break up the day will greatly improve your focus, allowing you to overcome coding obstacles that have a way of lingering for days if you continue to stare at the problem without taking a break.

So in 2017 if there is only one resolution you make, then let it be to ‘sharpen the saw’ in your career and personal life. Give yourself permission to invest in yourself on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis so that you can learn more, contribute more, and grow more than you thought could ever be possible.