Developing the 7 digital habits: Habit 3 – Sharpen the digital saw


This is part of a series of posts that were prompted by an article written by the Leading Edge Forum entitled The 7 Digital Habits of Highly Effective People.

In Habit 1 we looked at “Seek first to understand” and the challenge of sensing our market. Habit 2 suggests a need to “Be proactive in terms of managing your brand.” In Habit 3 we look at our need to “Sharpen the digital saw” where we take time to open the door on our digital tool shed to see whether it’s secure and tidy.

I have a confession to make; my shed is a mess. I can’t find anything, and every job takes twice as long as it should because I spend so much time looking for the tools I need. Sometimes I give up looking for the right tool and use the nearest thing to it instead. This has the effect of making the job take even longer. There are certain jobs that I don’t even attempt because I don’t have the right tools and wouldn’t know what to do with them if I did. There are other tools that I have had for years but never used because I’m not even sure I know what they are for. There are many jobs which take me far longer than it would for a professional. That’s because they have the rights skills and the right tools — and increasingly those right tools are power tools.

Now unlock your smartphone and survey the icons that are there before you. Do you know how to use these tools? Are these the right tools for the job that you are doing? Are apps on there to which you have become emotionally attached, but aren’t really delivering any value?

Apple used to run an advertising campaign with the tagline: “There’s an App for That.” When was the last time you wondered whether there was an app for the thing that you were doing? When was the last time you wondered whether there was a better app for the thing that you were doing? Have you ever wondered whether there is a way to automatically do the thing that you are doing? Have you ever been surprised to discover that an app now does something that you always wished it would do?

Each of these questions are about sharpening your digital saw. There are a few approaches that we need to consider when doing our sharpening.

Remove the clutter

We all get emotionally attached to apps, but if they aren’t useful why are they there? It might not feel like these additional apps are getting in the way but, if nothing else, they are distracting us away from our useful tools. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to tell which apps on your various devices aren’t being used. Sometimes though all you need to do is look and you’ll realize which are just clutter. If you can’t remember using the tool, it’s a pretty good sign that it’s no longer required.

While you are clearing up the clutter you also need to be mindful of the data that those apps have created and where it is stored. Sometimes you also need to go and actively delete the profile for the app that has been created, after first considering whether you want to retain any of the data that may be stored there. Sometimes it’s also necessary to revoke the access that you’ve granted to the app in other data sources.

Replace the coming legacy

The rate of change in apps has increased significantly in recent years. This is true for app upgrades, but also for the active life of a particular app. It’s increasingly likely that an app that hasn’t been updated in the last couple of months is no longer active. There are all sorts of reasons for apps becoming inactive, but apps that aren’t being updated will soon become obsolete and need to be replaced. If this is the case it’s time to start looking for an alternative, which is almost certainly out there and probably being used by people that you know. Again, it’s not always easy to tell what when apps have been updated, but the details are normally visible on the various App Stores and you need to check for each app.

Relearn ways of working

Why are you doing things a certain way? Is it because you’ve always done it that way? We all have productivity habits that we don’t even question because they are so embedded in our ways of working. We get so used to doing things certain ways that we get frustrated when an app changes the way that it works, but it doesn’t take us that long to get used to the new way of doing things.

The ways that we work are changing radically and will continue to change as new capabilities become available. If we don’t adopt to those new capabilities we will slip behind in our productivity. If you are repeatedly doing something, then ask yourself why it’s not automated. If you don’t know how to automate something, that’s a great place to start the learning.

We each have different personalities and respond to change in different ways. I’m generally comfortable with change but, even for me, constant change can become tiring. My way of embracing the constant change is to re-categorise it as a learning goal — I’m trying to relearn my approach to change.

Research new capabilities

I’ve spent much of this post focused on apps and there is a reason for that. They are the most dynamic aspect of the digital tools environment, but there is also a lot of new hardware being developed every year. The new hardware, apps and their associated platforms are making new capabilities available at pace.

Personal assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant are great examples of this, combine these technologies with the numerous internet connected hardware capabilities and we live in a world where home automation is accessible for many, but workplace automation feels like a distant proposition. Using these capabilities in the home context is a great way of researching the digital productivity future.

Researching new capabilities can be a challenge, so where do you start? That’s part of Habit 1: Seek first to understand.

There’s a world of opportunity out there waiting to be utilised by people like you.

Graham-Chastney-headshotGraham Chastney is a senior principal technologist in DXC. He has worked in the arena of workplace technology for nearly 30 years, starting as a sysprog supporting IBM DISOSS and DEC All-in-1. Latterly Graham has been working with DXC’s customers to help them understand how they exploit the changing world of workplace technology. Graham lives with his family in the United Kingdom.

Twitter: @grahamchastney


  1. […] Developing the 7 digital habits: Habit 3 – Sharpen the digital saw […]

  2. […] manage that. There are new techniques and tools available all the time and we’ve discussed how to keep a sharp edge and how to avoid all the distractions. We’ve even highlighted the role of the digital […]

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