How Do You "Sharpen Your Axe?"

How Do You "Sharpen Your Axe?"
Photo by C D-X / Unsplash

Like many children, one of my chores when I was younger was to clean my room. While I appreciate the value of a tidy and organized space now, the same can not be said for younger Orlando. It was not uncommon for me to “clean” my room by clearing everything on my floors and shoving it in whatever drawer had the capacity.

After taking 5-10 minutes to migrate the chaos from the surfaces of my furniture and my floor to my drawers, I would be beaming with pride and go to do whatever else I wanted to do. This could be playing with friends, reading, going outside, etc. It didn’t matter what I did, there was a 100% chance that it would be more enjoyable than cleaning my room.

The problem with this was that periodically, all my drawers would have so much packed into it that they became difficult to open and it was difficult to locate things I needed. This resulted in me having to spend my entire Saturday going through everything to see what I needed and what could be discarded.

Additionally, because everything was crammed in drawers, if I wanted to move something to another space, I had to clean that drawer out too. This process often even trickled into the following Sunday!

While it felt good in the moment to forego the cleaning, the reality is that if instead of rushing in 5-10 minutes to simply move the chaos from Point A to Point B, I actually spend half an hour or so to intentionally clean, I could have saved a lot of precious weekend time.

I “saved” 20+ minutes every couple of weeks only to have to spend hours and hours in the future to tame the chaos that lay within my drawers.

As I grew older and developed better habits, I came upon a quote by Abraham Lincoln that really resonated with me. He is credited with saying:

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.”

This certainly relates to my previous example in that I could have spent more time “sharpening my axe” and develop a good system of tidiness instead of having to spend more time on the labor of cleaning my room and “chopping the tree.”

However, the more I reflected on this, I found that this also applies to the work that we do in our small businesses.

As an example, with EID Visions, we make sure to properly plan before doing anything. This was especially notable with our website. While it was especially tempting at the very beginning to dive right in and create our website, it was better to take a few hours to intentionally map out what content we wanted and how we wanted it to look. We pored over best practices and created a sitemap and wireframe to ensure that our site was the best it could be. With our sitemap, it allowed us to make sure our menu structure made sense and was easily navigable. The wireframe helped us design how each individual web pages would look, ensuring that it would be intuitive to our website visitors to find what they were looking for.

By taking a few days up front in the design process, it saved us weeks of work in the future from having to redo a website that was already deployed. The end result is a better designed and more robust website for us and those who visit it!

The preparation might not feel like progress, but it will ultimately help the task at hand.

Originally published at the EID Visions Blog on August 21, 2019.