Summer is fully here, with this past Tuesday being the longest day of the year. In Chicago, summer arrived early – with very hot weather soon and often – which forced me to step up my game in the garden.

The other day as I was gardening I noticed my pruners needed sharpening, and I was afraid to use them on a couple of my more sensitive plants, because they no longer had that sharp edge.

This small incident brought me to thinking about sharpening all my tools, not just the physical ones I use in the yard, but also the skill-based tools I use in the office. That’s one of the great things about gardening – it frees the mind and allows new ideas to come into view. I started wondering if there were some sensitive projects I was working on that could use a sharpened skill. So, I started looking to see what new (at least to me) features there might be in things like Microsoft PowerPoint and NetSuite OpenAir that could help me do things faster or more effectively.

Sure enough, after about two hours of some online training and a few more hours of dedicated time playing around in the software, I found a couple things I’m sure will save me tons of time over the next year – far outweighing the five hours I put into the process.

This type of work may not fit the traditional definition of training, but it is just that. Training comes in many forms: self-sought/self-taught, one-on-one informal training, conferences, online webinars, and traditional in-person classroom-style training, to name a few.

Just yesterday one of my team members scheduled a meeting with me to see if I had some information that would help her finish an internal project she was working on. In just 15 minutes, we found the answers together that she needed. She noted how, based on her cursory search before the meeting, she probably would’ve needed a couple of hours to get the answers on her own. So, sharpening your tools can come in many forms. My team and colleagues are constantly mentioning new things they do/try that have helped me over the years.

What tools do you need to sharpen?  What tools have you found to help you? There are many options to be found online at places like AbilaUniversity.com and Coursera.org.  You can connect with people in your own office or in the Community.  Just remember, even though school’s out, keep those tools sharp!