David Smith

The shortcut to an easier life

What if you could increase your team’s productivity by 10 per cent at no additional cost to your business? Wouldn’t you jump on it?

A few years ago, I was sitting in an open plan office and next to me was an executive assistant who was busily typing up a long document for her boss. It was a long and complex document requiring a lot of text manipulation. She was handling it OK, using her mouse to select the text she wanted to move and selecting the cut and paste options from the menu. She was doing fine except that what she was doing was incredibly inefficient.

After a while, I couldn’t help myself. I stopped her and asked whether she realised there was a much faster way of doing things. She looked at me as though I was mad, but I persisted.

I suggested that instead of using her mouse she didn’t need to take her hands off the keyboard at all. Just moving your hand to and from the mouse slows you down without even considering the time it takes to move the mouse to select the text or the options from the menus.

I then proceeded to show her the shortcut keys that can enable her to achieve the same outcomes much faster without taking her hands off the keyboard. In the space of 10 minutes it was quite clear that I had increased her productivity in the order of at least 10 per cent.

Imagine if you could increase all your team’s productivity by that amount.

The weird thing is that the Baby Boomers are the ones who know how to do this. In the pre-Windows era there wasn’t a mouse (shock horror you might think). These magical shortcut keys were the only way that things could get done. The good news for the Boomers is that shortcut keys created in the 1980s persist today in modern Windows applications.

It’s now time for the young Millennials to get with the program and benefit from the productivity lift that these keys bring.

As you would expect, Google comes to the rescue. Type in shortcut keys and you’ll quickly find the list. You’ll be surprised how many there are.

The key that surprises me the most is the Windows key on the keyboard – you know the one with the Windows logo.

For many years I have stood in front of audiences at conferences and asked what the key is for. Nearly everyone knows that if you press it then up comes the Windows menu. But that is a very small part of its magic. Want to lock your computer — Windows key+L will achieve that. In fact, there are many things the Windows key can do when it’s combined with other keys. It’s quite amazing how few people know about the uses of the Windows key given that it’s been on keyboards for over 20 years!

For at least as long as the Windows key has been around, I have been a strong advocate of using multiple screens. Most people these days have two although I would suggest that you need at least three… I run four. Once again, the trusty Windows key provides an efficiency dividend. Windows key+Shift+Arrow will move the active window to the next screen in the direction of the arrow. Now that’s a hell of a lot quicker than grabbing the window’s titlebar with the mouse and dragging the window across to the other monitor.

Want to minimise all windows (Windows key+M); open Windows Explorer – Windows key+E will do that.

One of the challenges with so many shortkey keys is “how do I learn them all”. The answer is simple. You learn them incrementally. Pick two. Start using them. Put a post-it note on your screen to remind you. Very soon they become habit. A week or two later pick another two. Do the same thing. They then become a habit. If you keep doing this over a few months you’ll be surprised how quickly you will have picked them up and improved your productivity.

Hold training sessions for your team. Do the same thing. Point out to people when they should be using them. I did that recently with one Millennial. She looked at me as though I was the Messiah. Always good to get one-up on those tech savvy youngsters.

Let’s assume you’ve got five people in your firm producing on average $100,000 in fees each. If you can improve their productivity by just 2 per cent there’s another $10,000 for the bottom line. Methinks the productivity gain is much more than 2 per cent but it just goes to show the impact small changes can make.

People feel better too. They feel more efficient. Working with a PC is less frustrating.

Now’s the time. Download the list of shortcut keys and start your incremental learning program. You’ll be surprised how much it makes your life easier and adds to the bottom line.

David Smith, director, Smithink

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