Have you mastered your tools? [PMP #256]

A surgeon is a master at using a scalpel. They don’t just have a basic understanding of the tool. They’ve spent thousands of hours perfecting their skill with it to make sure every cut they make is calculated and accurate.

A wood carver is a master at using a chisel and sandpaper. Anyone can use a chisel but a professional wood carver is a master with their tools which is why they can create beautiful things out of wood and I can’t.

A sushi chef is a master at using a knife. We all use knives every day, but a sushi chef knows how and where to make accurate cuts of fish to create delicious pieces of sushi.

The point is, whatever your area of expertise, you need to become a master of your tools. Having a basic understanding isn’t good enough if you want to truly be great at what you do.

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This is why it surprises me when I talk to people who work in sales, who use a CRM and they tell me:

“We’ve been using Pipedrive for a while but we probably only use about 20% of its features and we know we could get a lot more out of it”.

It’s a bit like the surgeon saying:

“I’ve been doing surgery for a while but I’m not that great with a scalpel and I know I could be better”.

If you’re a salesperson, your efficiency and effectiveness at closing deals are correlated to how well you can use a sales CRM to manage your leads.

If you’re a graphic designer, your productivity and the quality of your work are determined by how well you can use design software.

If you’re a financial analyst, your results are determined by how well you can use tools like Excel to analyse data.

So, what are the main tools you use to do your work and what are you doing to become a master at them?

For me, it doesn’t just stop at the apps like Asana and Pipedrive that I use. My work is 100% digital and my computer is my scalpel. It’s the thing I use all day to get my work done. That’s why I do things like:

  • Use an ultra-wide monitor so I can organise my windows and see more of my work on the screen at a time.
  • Use a password manager to easily access personal and client login credentials.
  • Use tools like TextExpander to get quick access to email templates and useful links.
  • Memorise and customise my own keyboard shortcuts.
  • Use tools like Zapier and Keyboard Maestro to automate routine and mundane tasks.
  • Organise my files and documents using a logical structure and tags that help me easily find information later.

This means when I’m answering emails, planning my time, creating content or working on client projects, I can get the work done in less time because I’m using my tools with greater effect. This starts by adopting a mindset whereby you’re always looking for opportunities to be more efficient. Whenever I notice myself doing something again and again, or if I feel something is taking too long, I look for ways to make the process simpler, easier and quicker.

The reason most people aren’t very good at using their tools, especially digital tools and computers, is they don’t have this mindset. Most people are too busy doing their work to stop and think about how they can do the work more efficiently to begin with.

Abraham Lincoln is often quoted as saying:

“If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six hours sharpening my axe.”

So, how much time are you spending at sharpening your axe and learning how to use your tools more effectively and efficiently?