The meaning I get from this quote is.. you need to take time to find and then use the best tools to complete your task. Not sure Abe needed 4 hrs to sharpen his ax. Even with a dull ax he probably could have chopped the tree down in less than the four hours he spent sharpening. But he knew a dull ax would make the task longer, more tiring, dangerous and even more frustrating. You get the idea.
To get things done efficiently you have to prepare before you actually work on your task to make sure you have the right tools for the job. Working with the wrong tools will waste time and energy. This thought process can be applied to things at work and home.
Example: You decide you are going to paint a room. You go to the store without preparing a list of things you need to do the job, like paint, rollers, brushes, tarp, paint tray etc. You get home and realize you didn’t get the painters tape. That’s a very important tool to get the job done quicker and neater. So now you make another trip out to the store and waste time or you have to paint slower and be more careful because you don’t have the painter tape protecting your woodwork.
A boy scout would say “Be Prepared” and we all know the saying “Haste Makes Waste.” Making sure you have the right tools for the job and have them within arm’s reach as you start your task, will help you complete your task efficiently. Sometime the prep work isn’t the most fun but it will make the job easier. Imagine a chef not having the food prepped before dinner service. How efficiently would food be served to diners working that way? That longer wait time may just lose that restaurant a few customers.