The Right Tool for the Right Job

I had design professor in college for several different theatre courses. I have no idea what happened to him, as attempts to re-establish contact in recent years has been unsuccessful for me. What I will always remember him for, though, is a phrase that he used to toss around the scene shop: “You have to have the right tool for the right job!”

It’s a phrase that I’ve found myself repeating many times since then.

I think that we’ve always been fascinated with our tools. My father’s “man cave” was a wood shop that he kept in a separate, detached building from our home. He would retreat there to work on his various projects. I actually never understood why he didn’t sell them on a larger scale, because he could certainly have made some income with his talent. His shop, though, was loaded: saws, drills, hammers…all of the fun tools that you would expect in a shop, and not at all dissimilar from when I would be constructing sets in the scene shop. It goes without saying, I think, that when my dad had disposable income laying around for his hobby, it went to tools.

While I’m not in any way gifted at sculpting things out of wood as my father did, I need various tools with which to craft words, or write code. Whenever Karen and I have a disagreement over disposable income (including whether or not such a category exists for us on a given month), it frequently arises over my desire for a new tool: a new iPad, the most recent operating system, a new piece of software, etc. These tools consistently make my work easier and more productive, but my tastes frequently are bigger than our bank account.

The issue with tools is that, if I’m to generalize any sort of example from myself, we can often become caught up in the shiny news toys to the point of distracting ourselves from the project that we might be using them to accomplish.

Don’t tell her I said this, but I think that Karen’s reluctance to try new tools because the learning curve for them actually distracts from her productivity more than staying with an older system that she already knows, may be wise.

When I remember my dad’s wood shop, I can remember at least two or three items knocking around out there that received minimal use. I’m sure my bag of technological toys has a couple of those as well. Certainly, I’ve even loaded up our kitchen in the past with gifts for Karen’s culinary genius that have gone largely un-used.

Perhaps there’s a lot to be said for creatively finding ways to accomplish the task at hand, rather than over-equipping our arsenal of tricks with which to accomplish them. Perhaps we can accelerate our productivity to the point of being unproductive.

What do you think?

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