It’s all about the tools you use. Or to borrow a phrase made popular by author Stephen Covey, sharpen the saw or you’ll face frustration.

The foundation of this idea comes from the image of two woodcutters with a quota of trees to fell before day’s end. The younger man chopped and chopped at a frenzied pace but after awhile, each blow was less and less effective and he worried he wouldn’t be done by evening. Pausing to wipe the sweat from his brow, he glanced over to see the older man not even attacking a tree but rather working on his tools. And whistling.

When asked what he was doing, the wiser man replied that by taking time to sharpen his saw, he would be able to work efficiently the remainder of the day. The time he took now to hone the edge of the blade would pay off in multiple ways, saving both time and energy…and frustration…before the end the day.

Lesson? Invest in yourself and your tools. Because a little time now will multiply a hundred different ways later.

At the beginning of the summer, I was reminded of this principle while working to get our house ready to sell. Right in the middle of my lists of decluttering and cleaning tasks, my oldest son announced that our vacuum had almost caught on fire.

Yikes! And yet I knew the old beast was on its last leg. But since I simply hadn’t found time to go vacuum shopping, I’d been trying to keep up with the housework using an inefficient tool that required me to go over the same patch of flooring multiple times.

But, with a smoking vacuum in the basement and the urgent need for round-the-clock cleanliness, I grabbed my purse and headed to Walmart. Where it only took about five minutes to pick out an updated model in my price range with all the features we needed. Bingo.

Back home, the kids fought over who got to run the vacuum first. And my carpets never looked cleaner. Win-win. All because I took the time to get the right tool.

Example number two? My laptop. The tool I use for email, bookkeeping, editing…and writing. The tool that took almost ten minutes to fully boot up and whose battery lasted about an hour and a half if I was lucky. And didn’t have the memory capacity to hold both Photo Shop and a photo to edit open at the same time.

I’ve been meaning to get a new one for almost a year. Even saved up the money. But when I thought about going to the store, figuring out what the latest-and-greatest processor was, and then transferring all of my programs and files and passwords to a new machine…well, you can see why I procrastinated.

And then I’d finally had enough. I cleared my calendar for a few days so I wouldn’t need any machine, then drove to the store to talk to a member of the Geek Squad. A half hour later, I left with a military-grade quality machine with a fast processor, large memory bank, and long-lasting battery.

The new laptop boots up in less than six seconds. The updated software made it simple to set up my assorted email accounts into one centralized location. And thanks to my back-up service, I was able to transfer all of my files overnight. Without breaking a sweat, I was back in business.

And can I just say that I’m excited to work on this machine? It’s so fast and easy that I have no trouble turning it on and writing even when I only have a few minutes. Plus the upgrade in processor speed means it’s finishing a task almost before I’ve thought about starting it.

No more waiting around for a sluggish machine to respond. No more frustration. No more lugging around power cords and searching for that perfect Starbucks table near an outlet.

Because I took the time to sharpen the saw and invest in the right tools, I have a clean house and efficient work space. And no frustration.

What about you? Do you have tools that need updating or sharpening? What excuses have you used to procrastinate on making that change? How would your life be different if you had the new tool instead of the old one?

Sharpen the Saw…Or Face Frustration