I’m a life optimization addict. So I work really hard to be more efficient at my computer. I focus on four activities:
- Selecting text, switching apps/tabs
- Starting applications, opening folders
- Menu navigation
It may be
a teeny-weeny bit utterly compulsive, but last month I measured the total time saved based on average time per activity. The result: Using an app launcher, a text snippets tool and keyboard shortcuts saves me 14 hours per month. That’s 14 episodes of House of Cards!
Here’s the math:
|Selecting text, switching apps/tabs||3:00|
|Starting applications, opening folders||4:40|
|Total time saved||14:10|
No wizardry necessary. Here’s how you do it:
Learn your keyboard shortcuts
If you’re not a geek and just play one on the internet, you can learn a nice long list of shortcuts in this Lifehacker article. Here are my favorites:
|Action||Mac keystroke||Windows keystroke|
|Switch applications|| || |
|Switch browser tabs|| || |
|Select word|| || |
|Select character|| || |
|Select from cursor to end of line|| || |
|Change windows in an application|| ||varies|
If you ever want to move your cursor without selecting text, leave off the
Learn the keyboard shortcuts for gmail [pdf] or your e-mail client, too. If you spend as much time as I do sifting through e-mail, this is a monster timesaver.
Use the utilities
Add a few simple utilities to your computer and you can reduce typing, eliminate mouse use and otherwise exercise your geek glands:
A text shortcuts utility will let you convert often-used, longer chunks of text to short snippets. For example: On my laptop, the code to run a simple web server is
python -m SimpleHTTPServer 8000. I’ve got limited mental storage space, so instead of memorizing that long string, I set a TextExpander snippet:
.psh. If I type that, it expands automatically to the full command.
I do the same thing with HTML code. I can type
<a href="blah blah" target="_blank">portent</a>. Or, I can type
,a and get this:
When I click ‘OK’ (or press enter, no mousing here!) TextExpander inserts the snippet and places the cursor in the
href element, so I can quickly type in the URL.
There are sooo many possible timesavers here. You can dig as deep as you want.
Find TextExpander here (ignore the horrifying stock image).
On Windows, check this LifeHacker article for a list of apps.
Here’s a video of TextExpander in action:
An app launcher lets you start applications from the keyboard. My favorite on the Mac is Alfred. I use it to open folders, start applications, run web searches and all sorts of other fun stuff, like open the clipboard viewer and select a clip:
Launchy is my favorite for Windows, but it’s been a while. Leave a comment if you know a better one.
Here’s a video of me using Alfred:
A keyboard navigator lets you execute menu commands within any application without the mouse.
I know this is controversial. If you learn all of the hotkeys within an app, you can execute most commands without touching the mouse. But I like being able to use the same tool from one application to the next. Plus, I have the memory of a goldfish.
On the Mac, I use ShortCat. I use one keystroke to activate the app, then click the letter of the top-level menu, then enter/arrow keys to find the command. Centering an image in Powerpoint is a 2-4 mouse click operation. It’s a 2-4 keystroke operation, too. Which do you think is faster? That’s a rhetorical question: The keystrokes.
Here’s an example video for ShortCat:
Learn once, save often
Setting up a snippet in TextExpander or learning to use ShortCat take time. But those two minutes can save you hours. Since becoming proficient at TextExpander, I’ve saved 9 minutes per day. That’s time to go and get a life-saving portion of chocolate. And it adds up to 4.5 hours/month.
Take the time to save the time. It’s more than worth it.
And that, folks, is how I save 14 hours/month.