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