In my opinion, we may be wasting our time, if we don’t strive to inject joy, smarts and improvement in our daily routine. So let’s talk about my number one time and energy saver, the so often ignored phenomenon of keyboard shortcuts. Some people haven’t ever even heard of them, so in case you are not sure what I mean by keyboard shortcuts: these are (combinations of) keys on your keyboard that help you operate your apps and navigate through your screens, just like clicking and dragging with your mouse. The most common one may be the ‘ctrl c’ for ‘copy’; I think you now know what I mean. There are keyboard shortcuts for almost every thinkable command so you should be able to set your mouse free forever. In fact, it will be you who is liberated from the time and energy consuming habits of mousing and trackpadding.
My Top 3 personal favorite basic keyboard shortcuts:
- Tab and shift tab: gets your cursor forth and back in forms and along tick boxes and fields
- Ctrl z: undo the previous command (in case you did make a mistake)
- Esc: whenever you end up somewhere unintended, that’s how you leave. Also works well for pop up screens
Let me explain 5 good reasons why I believe everybody who has fingers and a brain, should use keyboard shortcuts.
- It is faster: Using keyboard shortcuts can be done at close to thinking speed, so as far as operating your computer goes, thinking speed would always be the limiting factor
- It is more accurate: A keyboard shortcut is a clear command given to your computer that cannot be mistaken. You may have experienced the stress when you dragged an item and released your finger off your mouse just a pixel too early, and then spent minutes to dig for it?
- It saves you painful wrists and other desk work related injuries
- It takes less effort than using a mouse, and you earn back your learning time within days
- It looks rather professional. And in fact, it doesn’t only look more professional, it is. As noted above, you are simply in control.
But there is more to this fifth reason than can be easily measured. You may remember from childhood, looking at your parents when they were skillfully driving you around town in their car. You may have even pretended driving, copying their movements, being in control of the vehicle, switching smoothly between the gears? This was about being cool, right? Do you remember driving your own car for the first time? Way cooler even. That’s what I mean by looking professional: You can operate your computer faster than anyone could follow, without making a mistake, straight towards your goal. You are in charge, you control your device, you are confident and skillful. This smoothness adds juice & joy to your work. The tool is no longer an obstacle; it is the vehicle that serves you reaching your potential.
So what’s the difference and why should you bother learning? Here’s how it works: Using a trackpad or mouse is hand-eye-coordinated movement. This is a conscious process that requires energy, our full attention and quite some time, too. You’ll never get faster or better at it without harming yourself (third reason). Besides, your brain will always be faster than your hand-eye-coordinated moves, so you’ll be frustrated by the process, too.
When we use keyboard shortcuts, we can skip the ‘eye’ part because our hands can do it on their own, like a pianist playing a masterpiece, without watching the keys and without consciously thinking about the notes. You’ll get better at it quickly, you’ll enjoy your effort and you’ll navigate like a pro.
Wanna get started?
Monitor yourself for a day or so. Every button you click potentially has a shortcut, so become aware of your most used 3 commands. There are shortcuts for commands within an app, as well as for navigating in between screens and programs on your device. Find the keyboard shortcuts either via Google or the application itself. Write them down on a post it and stick it to your mouse. Now practice for an hour, doing your work as you go, and you’ll probably know them before the post it has fallen off your mouse. After a week or so, they’ll be programmed into your muscle memory, so you can choose, find and stick 3 new ones on your mouse and repeat. If you force yourself onto a too steep learning curve, expect a relapse, but don’t let that put you off. Your time and effort is worth it.
So what’s in it for me? You may think. You will save up to about 40% of your time. And I am not even talking about accuracy, health, effortlessness and coolness here. Good luck and enjoy!
Guest Blog by Aukje Johanna Jansen-Olthuis aka JohannaTime.