Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

Thoughts About Using Tools

A bunch of tools being used to crack walnuts

I’m fortunate that in my life I have a number of people who get me to think about things in a different or a new way. And they do that whether they mean to or not.

One of those people is Shaun McCance. In 2015, Shaun posted this pair of tweets:

A tweet from Shaun McCance

A second tweet from Shaun McCance

I asked Shaun if he needed to do anything remotely advanced with a word processor or spreadsheet in the past. Turns out that he didn’t. He said that he always had another way to solve that problems that a word processor or a spreadsheet solves for many people.

Despite what some so-called gurus and experts will lead you to believe, not everyone needs to be a so-called power user of every tool they use. Many of us never need to go beyond the basics. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Like Shaun, until recently I never needed to do anything advanced with a spreadsheet. But in 2014, I learned a lot about analyzing and manipulating data using a spreadsheet as part of the data journalism course I took.

Even now, I don’t consider myself to be an expert- or even an intermediate-level user of spreadsheets. I know enough to do what I need to do. Nothing more. And there’s a lesson here.

That lesson? Use tools at the level that’s right for you. Not at the level that other people use them or the level at which they think you should use them. Be selfish. Only consider of your needs, no matter how limited those are. Those needs are the only ones that matter.

But what if you need to do something more with a tool, something that goes beyond your level of ability? Well, there are people, books, and resources online you can consult to help you. I always suggest learning those skills or increasing your abilities with your tools when you need to. I don’t see the use in learning more about a tool when it will be a long time (if ever) before you use it. By then, you might have forgotten the skill or it will have atrophied to the point where you’ll have to relearn it anyway.

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