What the world’s greatest lumberjack can teach you about productivity

There once were two lumberjacks.

And not just any garden-variety lumberjacks. They were known as the two best lumberjacks on earth.

Both were tall and strong: 6 feet 8 inches, with 280 pounds of pure muscle, they towered over everyone else and wore plaid shirts, bushy beards and workman’s boots that added 2 more inches to their height. You can picture them, right?

One day, the two lumberjacks decided that sharing the title of best lumberjack on earth wasn’t enough. They wanted to determine who was the world’s greatest lumberjack. 

So they set up a head-to-head competition. 

The rules were simple: 

Each man had one axe and 24 hours to chop as much wood as possible. 

On a frosty December morning, they went at it.

The first lumberjack, in an incredible feat of stamina, strength and perseverance, chopped without taking even a moment’s break. 

He didn’t pause to wipe the sweat off his brow or even take a sip of water. He was so strong, that he never lost velocity on a swing and he was so skilled, that he maintained precision with every chop. For the entire 24-hour period, he cut as fast, as hard and as precisely as humanly possible.

The second lumberjack, of equal strength and stamina, chopped at the exact same velocity, precision and force.

With one difference. 

Every two hours, he took a break for 20 minutes. That means during the 24-hour period, there were two hours when he didn’t even swing his axe. 

Now, knowing that both men were of equal strength, had the exact same axe and struck the wood with the same speed, you can guess who won the challenge. 

The lumberjack who never took a second to rest, of course, right?


In fact, the winner was the lumberjack who stopped swinging his axe for 20 minutes every two hours.

How was that possible? 

When the winning lumberjack was asked how he could have won taking so many breaks, he responded with a modest smile: 

“Sometimes you have to pause to sharpen your axe.”


Even if there’s so much to do.

And you feel guilty when you’re not doing it.

Being with people you love

Reading a novel

Spending time in nature

Having conversations not related to work. 

These are all ways to sharpen your axe.