This is a talk from Dan North about Sharpening the Tools at QCon 2010. I had the great pleasure to listen to this guy at this year's QCon (recap is in the drafts already and will be published soon btw). In this talk he picks out some tips on how to keep up with the technological evolvement and with tools.
#1 Practise the basics - He mentions to practice coding katas, code just for the purpose of fun, learn shortcuts (I'm a huge fan of them) and practice your shell-fu. Actually I'm currently just trying to practice a bit that last point by having installed cygwin on my Windows Work PC. Moreover I bought a Mac years ago, just for the purpose of also knowing the unix-side of the world. Another important point was to learn a new language that you don't need (at work). My personal one currently: nodejs and document databases (MongoDb).
#2 Learn from other people - Beside stalking experts, following people on Twitter and reading blogs etc, he also mentions to read code from others. Just go and clone some GitHup repo and read through the code.
#3 Understand trends - Build a network of people you listen to. I'm doing that through RSS and Twitter preferably, an extremely powerful tools for keeping up with technology. Try out new things when there is the possibility to. You have to know just enough to be able to understand when you need a given technology needs further investigation. Do you know what you don't know?
#4 Share knowledge - One of my favorite points in this talk. Blog about successes, it's not only that you're able to build a community, but mainly you're actively reflecting about what you were doing, the good and bad parts, doing retrospectives basically.
#5 Maintain your toolbox - Some tools might be disposable, being no more useful, or technologically deprecated. Use the "clothing" rule to update your tools.
#6 Learn how to learn - Understand how learning works. Luckily I had a good course about that at University. Quite interesting stuff about your head works out behind the scenes :).
Chunking up: Asking What for? to find the real reason behind doing something.
A: I'm cleaning the pot.
B: What for?
A: So I fill it with water.
B: What for?
A: So that I can have some tee.
B: What for?
A: So I can appease my thirst.
...then...chunk down again
A: I'm thirsty.
A: Drink tea, drink water, go to Starbucks.
B: How else? (< chunking sideways)
A: Drink water.
B: How else?
A: Go to Starbucks.
Eat your own dogfood
Actively solicit feedback
"Listen like you don't know the answer"