Do you ever find yourself slowly scrolling to the bottom of a page using the wheel on your mouse and wonder if there’s a faster way of doing it? How about clicking through several screens one by one until the option you’re looking for comes up? You need to stop clickety clicking and start tappedy tapping! This post is part of my productivity philosophy and will help you replace your long-winded mouse actions with super-fast keyboard shortcuts.
Once you’ve read the post, why not reshare this post, and let me know what your favourite keyboard shortcuts are…
Why over-reliance on your mouse slows you down
I proudly watched the British Cycling team led by Sir Chris Hoy achieve fantastic results at the last two Olympics – driven by their attention to detail. This is described by their mentor Dave Brailsford as the “aggregation of marginal gains”. In other words the team look to improve every aspect of their performance by 1%, from the food they eat to the specific exercises and clothes they wear when competing.
Think about this in relation to using a computer. What if everything you did took 1% longer? This is Dave’s theory in reverse. Compare the two options you have to save a document:
- Move your mouse to the file menu, click on ‘file’, move the mouse down to the ‘save’ option and click it
- Press Control and S at the same time
Which is faster? Clearly this example shows that you can save tiny amounts of time when performing each task on your computer – the aggregation of marginal gains in action! This is a great example of applying the theories of elite athletes to your own life – how exciting!
If you’re a numbers person like me, this following calculation may help persuade you to ditch the mouse.
Assume one second is saved each time you replace your mouse action with a keyboard command. If you perform 100 mouse movements in a day, you saved almost 2 minutes. If you perform 1,000 mouse movements in a day you can save closer to a quarter of an hour per day
So now you can start to think about how you want to spend that 15 minutes. Perhaps you’ll finish your weekly report a little sooner, and give yourself a bit more time to proof read it? Perhaps you might find a way to go home on time this week? Whatever your priorities are, you will start to give yourself more time to focus on them (and you know I’m obsessed with your priorities right?)
Using keyboard shortcuts
We all know the classic keyboard shortcuts for copy, paste, save etc etc; these are ubiquitous across many programs and are often accessed by pressing control or the apple key and a letter – for example save is accessed by pressing control/apple and S.
Most programs out there (for example Excel – my fave) have a long list of keyboard shortcuts for the most common tasks. The web is full of such lists, search for “excel keyboard shortcuts” and you’ll see how many there are (almost 2 million when I searched just now in July 2013). My advice to you is to download and print some of these out, and start using them.
The way to get really slick using keyboard shortcuts is to start using them. It’s like learning to drive a car – you start off being ‘consciously incompetent’ (i.e. you know you’re doing it but you’re rubbish at it), but slowly you move to ‘unconscious competence’ (you don’t know you’re doing it, and it’s just happening) – see here for my article on the learning cycle.
This process takes a couple of months, but slowly the keyboard commands will become part of your workflow. I don’t even look at the keyboard any more – when my brain tells me to save, my fingers seek out control and S and the action just happens instantly.
What the mouse is good at
Don’t get me wrong – the mouse is an amazing invention that has helped us move computing forward to where it is today. I thought it only fair that I share a couple of examples where you can use the mouse to great effect.
- Zooming in and out
- Selecting small areas
- Pressing buttons on webpages
So now you know why replacing mouse strokes with keyboard shortcuts is a good idea, and can start thinking about how you want to use your 15 minutes free time. Start working on learning the keystrokes by using them; I promise you it will become easy and slick before you know it.
Image by Jennifer J