I will analyse this quote from a different points, as you can never know what Abraham Lincoln really meant.
Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axeAbraham Lincoln
- The axe as a strength multiplier: An axe is a tool that multiply the strength of the lumberjack. The sharper the axe is, the better it cuts, and the less effort the lumberjack needs to provide. From this perspective, put the time to perfect whatever productivity multiplier that can help you with your objective.
- The axe as a tool that can help accomplish a task: If objective can be achieved through mastering a tool, or creating a tool. It is a choice to be taken. Because since early days of humanity tools helped our civilization thrive. Smart work is by definition avoiding doing things that take time and repetitive, a tool is usually what resolves such an issue. (Outsourcing does that in a way as well). Thus take time to find and optimize a tool, that will probably reduce the time you need for a task.
- The axe as a skill: It is possible that Abraham was talking about skills. It is better to spend time improving and tuning your project related skills, before starting a project.
Whatever Abraham point was, this quote in essence means the same thing. It means that before starting a project spend time getting ready to it. And you get ready by understanding and learning about whatever can help you do the job faster and better.