Sharpening the Saw: Looking after yourself is good for business

Let’s get personal.

If you’re not looking after yourself then life is a little bit harder than it needs to be.

Being physically, mentally and emotionally prepared for the things that life throws at you is essential to being effective in all areas; both professional and personal.

Stephen Covey’s habit number 7 is ‘sharpening the saw‘.

“..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..”

Making the time to pay attention to yourself is the hardest part for most people but developing habits and a practise of personal development pay’s you back with compound interest.

Here’s 5 things you need to be doing:


I don’t care whether its Zumba or Crossfit you need to be doing something that elevates your heart rate and taxes your muscles. Exercise improves health, mood, quality of life and helps you look good naked.

You don’t need to spend hour’s on a treadmill a short intense workout of 15 minutes will give you 80% of the benefit in 20% of the time.

I highly recommend buying a kettlebell, learning how to do a kettlebell swing and doing them everyday. You only need a small amount of space and you don’t even need to wear shoes. The kettlebell swing reverses a lot of the damage we sitting down. It strengths the your back, legs, and grip. It’s the epitome of functional strength.

If you’re more sadistic like me you can do 10,000 of them.


My ‘bells


I believe creativity is in all of us.

That doesn’t mean sitting outside painting watercolour landscapes it just means letting your ideas and inspiration come to the surface.

For me it’s writing. I have hundreds of thousands of words in stacks of notebooks and 2 gigabytes of Evernote documents, a book and various websites. Writing help’s me organise my thoughts and has cleaned up the way I communicate ideas. It has helped me become a much better teacher and mentor to clients and friends. In my case it builds my business as people identify with my thoughts and seek opportunities to work together.

Having a journal, colouring book or any other creative pursuit is like mind food.


How do learn the lessons of some of the greatest minds to have graced the earth? The easiest way is to read their books.

Unfortunately many people find reading a chore that they feel they should do more of. I don’t get that when you can access such a depth of knowledge and understanding from the contents of the book.

Even if you only get one key idea or actionable point from a book then it was likely worth the time invested. Occasionally a book will come along that gives you a fundamental shift in your world view. There have been three in my life: Four Hour Work Week, Antifragile and Zero to One.

Get a kindle and read.


Meditation feels like it has come out of the woowoo and into the mainstream in the past few years. There is increasing scientific evidence a mindfulness practise can build new pathways in our brain and increase cortical think-ness. I don’t know what that means but it sounds good to me.

There are tonnes of free resources online and even apps that can guide you through a meditative practise. It takes a some people a while to ‘get it’ but like exercise the compound effect sneaks up on you.


Coaching and Mentoring


My coach has been one of the best investments I made in 2015. She gives me perspective and accountability for my personal and professional goals and actions. Just the act of committing to coaching saw a subtle shift in my attitudes and behaviour and that was before we even started working together.

Clarifying the natural strengths we all have and perspective on the decisions we make is immensely valuable in achieving prosperity in our chosen field.

Mentors are different but similar. Generally a mentor will give you advice on a chosen field but there is natural spill over into other areas of life. I prefer the clarity of the relationship you have with a coach. Choose your mentor carefully as I’ve observed an inclination for mentors to hold people back if they start to outgrow the mentor.

If you have a practise that works for you please share in the comments.

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  • Luke Sniewski September 4, 2015   Reply →

    Great article, James. I like that you talk about emotional intelligence and mindfulness.

    • James Kemp September 6, 2015   Reply →

      Cheers mate. Will have to buy you some shiny new kettlebell’s when you’re back. I’m quite attached to yours 🙂

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