Use The Keyboard Like A Geek

Any geek will tell you one of the best ways to quickly move around your computer is the keyboard. Even though most of us depend on the mouse, the keyboard is actually a faster and more efficient way to handle most tasks. While it is easier to master, it takes incrementally longer to do anything, which, over time, adds up to a significant waste of time. It also forces your mind to shift, from typing at a keyboard to manipulating an object. This constant switching back and forth opens to door to distraction (or at least it does for the distractible amongst us), so what seems marginal can actually have a major impact on your work. Keeping your focus and staying on task goes a long way toward helping you actually accomplish said task, which is why it pays to get to know your keyboard commands a whole lot better.

Beginning to take a keyboard intensive approach to your computer use takes some getting used to. We are so used to the current division of labor. Keyboard for typing (and maybe the occasional copy and paste job) and the mouse for manipulating objects on the screen. At face value, it seems crazy to spend time learning all of these commands for what only appears to be a infinitesimal improvement. Each app has its own set of commands and often uses different keystrokes for the exact same actions. These are all valid frustrations, but over time, you begin to see the power of keeping your hands on the keyboard.

If I haven’t talked you out of them yet, let me give you a bit of advice as to how you can ease into the keyboard…

Start slow, begin with the applications you use every day and learn the keyboard shortcuts. Don’t drive yourself crazy trying to remember every last one. Take on a few at a time, starting with the most frequent things you your mouse to accomplish (e.g. saving a file, opening a new file, quitting the application). Don’t just trying to memorize the keys, start developing muscle memory so your hands instinctively go for the keys. It’s almost like dialing a phone1; the first few times, you think about the number, but after a while you need a keypad to recall the exact digits as your fingers remember the pattern more than you actually remember the numbers. The goal is to build up an arsenal of reflexive triggers that speed up just about everything you are looking to accomplish on your system.

This will seem like common sense to many of you, but I wanted to lay a little bit of groundwork before jumping into a follow-up post on how you can take this all to the next level with Keyboard Maestro. For those who are skeptical, keep in mind that you’re already doing this to a limited capacity. When looking to copy and paste, you hit Control-C and Control-V, when trying to add formatting to your text, you use Control + I,B or U to italicize, bold or underline your work. You do this because it is so much faster than grabbing your mouse and finding the proper menu option. Over time, they have become as familiar as the mouse to you. These are small examples, but think about how much time these steps have saved you in the aggregate. They have reduced friction and have helped you to do more faster. So just think of what can happen when you take a step back and take the time to learn a few more essential shortcuts.

Check back tomorrow when things get just a bit geekier and we start using Keyboard Maestro to take your keyboard to the next level.


  1. Well, that is back when we used to dial phones…  

4 Responses to Use The Keyboard Like A Geek

  1. Hello, Michael. How are you?

    My name is Eliseu Barreira Junior. I found you through your site. I am Community Manager at Scup Social, a social media monitoring platform used by more than 11,000 analysts and engagement managers in Brazil.

    We have just arrived in USA, after initial tests on many companies and agencies. Our plan is to engage beta testers for our English-language version and thought you would make a good person to ask. Is this something you’d like to explore with me?

    May I schedule a time to discuss this with you at your earliest convenience. We think that together we can share with good insights.

    Thank you very much. I hope we can talk soon.

    All the best, Eliseu Barreira Junior(eliseu@scup.com.br)

  2. Michael,

    Transitioning from using graphic design applications almost exclusively in the past to now writing much than before, has made this a necessity for me. I keep trying to break myself of the mouse habit, because I know it wastes time, but old habits die hard. Hard to kick this one, but I am working on it. :)

    Anyway, I look forward to your explanation of Keyboard Maestro, Sir!

  3. Great post Michael. I once worked with a girl who swore by her keyboard and never used a mouse. She claims to have been 40% more productive than the rest of us (although this was never verified independently, only her claim) because her hands never left the keyboard when she worked. I can tell you that she was adamant about not using a mouse and said that it helped her to focus and concentrate more so than if she used one.

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