Master Your Tools, You Fools ! August 07, 2013

It’s been going on for years, I see it everyday and it infuriates me, wether be it as a tech support guy, a team manager or a loving husband and father:
people lose a ton load of time, patience, energy and calm over misuse (or underuse) of their tools.

The pace of our lives often requires us to be more efficient at organizing and using the oh-so little time we have left for each task, making even the simplest of them stressful. At work, at home, in the street, it doesn’t matter.
Everything is a tool.
Smartphones and computer, of course, but also a camera or a washing machine, a pen or a chair, even abstracts such as language or food.
Everything is a tool.

And you should master the tools that surround you.

”But how can I master my tools”, you ask.
Well, it’s really simple: you will need a little time (don’t worry, you will get it back in no time), and a little memory effort (that usually goes along with caring and paying attention).
Then it all starts with a recon job.
The best moment to investigate a tool is soon, as in the very first day you acquire said tool. It can be a new software or version of a software, a new car, a new tea maker, it doesn’t really matter, remember: everything is a tool.
You check the settings first, or you quickly browse through the documentation, see how much customization is possible, how it can fit your need or taste. Then you pock around. For instance, in a software, you open a new document and start clicking on every menu, every button, trying to memorize it, to build a graphical pattern, building a vocabulary too.
It took 5 minutes so far, maybe 10. You still have a few to spare. (Yes, you do. Remember you are learning how to use a tool, it’s not a gadget, a toy or a social expression of your inner self. Take the time, it’s worth it).
So now you open your favorite browser and type a request in your favorite search engine (which both are tools, by the way), a request like iPhone pro tips or how to hold a brush for inking. Then you browse around, try to see how smart or near-OCDed people use the same tools. They will probably go too far for your taste, but you will also certainly learn a few tricks to improve your workflow.
The last step is to tinker. Try a new way of using it, see if it improves the output in any way.


Repeat a few times.

What goes for complex system goes for simple ones too:
Is there a way to pack a few more plates in this washing machine, without impairing its ability to wash ?

Like most positive things, it will create a positive loop.
You are now confident in your ability to master new tools or explore older ones further, and you will use more of them and use them better.

In the end, you will save time. A lot: the original investment will prove more profitable than a pre-burst internet bubble.
But not only.
Most of all, you will get a tranquility, a peace of mind, an absence of frustration. A little like Neo, when he’s starting to believe. You know, that deep breath, eyes closed, almost slow motion.
This is what mastering feels like and I’m sure you could use a little more of that feeling.