Take the time to learn the tools you use

One of the most important things I’ve learned in my career as a developer is to take the time to thoroughly learn the tools I use. The better I understand the tools I’m working with, the smoother and more efficient my day to day workflow goes.

Developers are pretty good at searching the internet to find the answers they need when they encounter something they don’t know. Being able to Google stuff is one of the first skills a good developer learns. Although this is a good skill to have, it often ends up being a crutch. Why take the time to do training or education on something when you can pull the docs or do a quick internet search?

I noticed a stark contrast in my day to day workflow when I used a technology that I took the time to do training on versus the one I just jumped into and figured out on my own. I noticed that when I didn’t take the time to learn something thoroughly I would have to reach out for what I needed instead of having the knowledge readily available. Sure, I would still have to look up things I didn’t know or didn’t remember but it would be minor details, not big implementation questions. When I don’t take the time to do training on something I find myself bumping into the gaps in my knowledge. When I do take the time to do training on something I find that I can more easily arrive at a solid solution because I know all the things that are possible with the tool.

A good example of this is when I took the time to do a training course on Photoshop. I was a developer so I didn’t feel the need to spend time doing training on Photoshop. It didn’t seem that important in my day to day workflow. I would use it occasionally and when I did, I was able to tinker my way to a solution. When I didn’t know something I would Google it.

However, it came to a point where I noticed that I would be spending so much time tinkering and googling for even the simplest things. Something that should have only taken a minute to do would end up taking half an hour.

So I decided to bite the bullet and go through a training course. It took about a week or two but it paid off big time. All the small things I needed to do with Photoshop I was able to do without having to figure out how to do it. I even found out quicker and better ways to do it. I was no longer scrambling and scouring the internet for answers.

I also learned about other features I was completely unaware of. For example, sometimes I would come across something that required me to perform a batch operation on a set of images, like resizing all images to a specific size. When I would come across that before, I would search the internet for a way to do it. Now, with the new things I just learned about Photoshop, I was able to easily and quickly perform the operation I needed.

When I was doing the training for Photoshop I was wondering if I was wasting my time learning something that’s not that important for my work. But when I completed it, I was very glad that I did. It paid off in ways I didn’t even see.

If you find yourself using a tool repeatedly, even for small things, taking the time to learn it thoroughly is worth it. If you use it for one thing, chances are you could use it for other things you don’t even know about.

I personally love to learn by watching video tutorials. The slower pace gives me space to think about what I’m learning and how it can be applied. Doing video tutorials where you have to follow along is even better. I find that it tends to stick to memory better that way than just reading through a bunch of docs.

I also use video tutorials to get a good overview and then go to the docs to fill in any gaps and details. By having a good high level framework in mind, it’s easier to fill in the details.

I encourage you to take the time to thoroughly learn the tools you use. The small amount of time you take to educate yourself will pay off so much more over the long term. You’ll also experience a much smoother workflow day to day.

The feeling of having the knowledge you need within a hands reach is much better than the feeling of stringing things together by searching the internet.

Full stack web developer building Flex CMS