Listen instead

My friend told me something recently that he witnessed and it left him puzzled. He was building a house on a construction site building and the house next door was also being constructed by professional contractors. Each day at noon, they would stop work and pile into their work trailer for 15 minutes and then come out and resume their work. At the end of the day, they would pile into the trailer again for 30 minutes and then all leave and go home. As I watched and saw them repeat this each day I became even more curious and wanted to know what they were doing, so I asked. The lead guy said that each day at noon they would all go into the back of the trailer and sharpen their tools. Then, at the end of the day, they would sharpen them again and change the blades with fresh ones for the next day. He went on to say that their work went faster and was of a better/higher quality of workmanship because they were working with freshly sharpened tools. Also, he said that it made their work a pleasure – working with a sharp blade is a joy.

I recently discovered for myself what difference it makes to use tools that are wearing down or to use tools that are in good repair. I have a cordless drill that I thought would be the best thing to have in order to not be limited by where the cord can reach. It has not lived up to what I expected though. The charger for my cordless drill has broken down and even after buying a new battery (which I figured was the problem in the first place – battery worn down and not taking a charge anymore) my drill has little power and so it goes slow and doesn’t last long. Also, the blade for my circular saw is getting dull and so it was taking longer to cut through the wood (not to mention the smoke and black edge it left on the wood) I bought to build some shelves in my basement. I asked my Dad if I could borrow his drill and borrowed his circular saw at the same time. It made an amazing difference to use his sharp blade compared to my dull blade. It went faster, smoother and straighter. Plus I didn’t have the wood starting to show signs of overheating and burning from too much friction. I could see immediately that I was going to get the job done much faster and with better workmanship, and I was not frustrated – it was a joy!

One tool I use constantly is my brain in my profession of software and web development. I remind myself every now-and-then of things that I need to do in order to keep that tool in top shape as well (enough sleep, proper food, some exercise). I find that when I am not taking proper care for my physical body, my mind starts to work slower, I end up missing some steps, or I’m slower to respond and sometimes just can’t find an answer but stare blankly at the screen. Then I have to take a break and do what’s necessary to help my brain go faster, more efficiently and be able to produce a higher quality of work.

Keeping my tools in good repair has proven that, in the long run, it is of greater worth on my time and other means. If you want to save time, make sure your tools are sharp also.