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The Tool You Actually Use is Better Than The Better Tool You Don’t Use

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Nobody loves systems more than me. I might have equals, but I am pretty sure that I am a process geek of the first order. So what I’m going to say might shock you.

I don’t care if you’re using the best tool for the job.

Shocked Expression With Computer

© Flickr user Rafiq Sarile

Let me start from the beginning.

There’s Nothing Worse Than Not Using Any Tools

When we are developing a new skill or being taught by an expert, we are often encouraged to complete every step, piece by piece, without taking shortcuts. Doing everything by hand might be a great way to learn, but it’s a terrible way to work.

You know this if you’ve been at your job for any amount of time. If you use the computer, you’ll find that you’re more facile with pointing and clicking, with typing and navigating than you once were. If your job requires looking through pages of documentation, you are now faster at finding the right spot and you’ve figured out all the tricks for jumping to the section you need.

If you work in the factory or the warehouse, you’ve determine the quickest routes, memorized the buttons for all the equipment, and know the meaning of every beep, bloop, and whir from the machinery. We get good at using the tools or even inventing our own.

But too often, people stick to doing things the old-fashioned way because that’s all they know. Some common examples:

  • Handling the employee schedule by hand instead of using scheduling software
  • Ordering over the phone instead of using a form or website
  • Trying to do graphic design instead of outsourcing to an expert.

Failure to use any tool is the slowest, most awkward way to work, hands down.

I Lied. It’s Worse To Use The Wrong Tool

Watching people use technology incorrectly is painful. It’s bad to use no tools at all, but it’s even worse using a tool that is counterproductive.

A great example is Microsoft Excel. It’s so easy to think about your information in rows and columns. People use this software program for all kinds of things that Excel was never intended for. If you are keeping track of financial data or maybe dates and times, but it’s not a program meant to store any kind of information imaginable.

Likewise, your email is not a filing cabinet, someone else’s voicemail is no place to leave complicated instructions or a rambling idea, and a text message should never be used to fire an employee. Using the wrong tool for the job is pretty awful.

Again, I’m Lying. What’s Worse Is Obsessing Over the Right Tool You’re Not Using

Once you start using a tool that works for you, it’s pretty easy to see some fancier tool that’s better. Consider these scenarios:

  • You try some free image editing software, but really want to upgrade to Photoshop
  • You enjoy taking photos with your smartphone, but are thinking about a professional digital camera
  • You’re using a numbering system for inventory control, but want to move to barcode scanners or RFID chips.

All of these systems might be better than the one you currently use. That’s great! But getting fixated on what you’re not using can become a hobby in itself.

The Actual Worst Ever? Using Nothing Because You Can’t Use The Best Tool

This is a problem especially in non-profits. Being afraid to spend a little money is practically a disease. There are countless cases where a $50 tool would have saved hundreds of hours of work per year, but no one is willing to allocate the money.

The moral of the story? Remember this:

The tool you’re actually using is far better than the superior tool you’re not using at all.

Take advantage of those tools, and keep moving forward! Don’t get stuck in neutral because you can’t focus on what you have and make the decisions that make the most sense.

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Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter is a workflow and productivity expert. He is a nationally known speaker on topics related to personal productivity, corporate efficiency and employee engagement. Robby is the founder of AccelaWork, a company which provides speakers and consultants to a wide variety of organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, regional non-profits, small businesses and individual entrepreneurs. Robby has written numerous articles for national magazines and has over one hundred published pieces. He is also the author of several books, including Failure: The Secret to Success. He has also been interviewed by international news outlets including the Wall Street Journal. Robby’s newest book is The Battle For Your Email Inbox.
Robby Slaughter


Troublemaker and productivity/workflow expert. Slightly more complex than 140 characters will permit.
@lorraineball First probably depends on the business. But second is likely training, especially with regard to sales. - 4 weeks ago
Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter

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