I’m a compulsive optimizer. I must find ways to be as efficient as possible. I spend most of my time sitting at a computer. If I’m going to feed my obsession, I have to get speedier there.
I did an experiment. I picked the four activities that suck efficiency out of computer use:
- Cutting/pasting, switching apps and tabs
- Opening folders and starting programs
When I put it all together and did the math (like I said, compulsive), I saved oodles of time:
- Editing: 6:00
- Typing: 6:30
- Cutting/pasting, switching apps and tabs: 3:00
- Opening folders and starting programs: 2:00
- Navigation: 1:30
- Total time saving: 19 Hours!
Note: I did a previous experiment where I saved 14 hours. It’s on my blog, here. Gotta improve, right?
Here’s what I did:
Upgrade your editing tools
Grammarly catches all manner of annoying mistakes. It’s the next best thing to a live proofreader.
Hemingway helps you tighten up business writing by finding unnecessary adverbs, passive voice, and complex sentences.
It’s not perfect, but by using these tools, I shortened my editorial process by about 2 minutes per e-mail, 15 minutes per blog post and a lot longer for bigger reports.
Monthly time saved: 6 hours
Type less, do more
Why type twenty words when one will do?
Get a tool like TextExpander. TextExpander lets you type shorthand. For example, I can type “.dm” and TextExpander turns it into “digital marketing.” I can also include “filler” fields, like this:
When I click “OK,” TextExpander inserts the full text into my word processor, text editor, or whatever else:
I use the program for e-mail signatures, e-mail addresses I use a lot, standard messages and a bunch of other stuff.
Monthly time saved: 6.5 hours
Mouse less, type more
Moving your hand from keyboard to mouse is the most sinister time suck of them all. The more you can use your keyboard, the faster you complete tasks.
For starters, learn your keyboard shortcuts. If you can cut and paste, switch windows/tabs and switch applications without your mouse, you save a ton of time.
These are my favorites for Windows and Mac:
Monthly time saved: 3 hours
Next, get an app launcher. On the Mac, I use Alfred. On Windows, try Launchy. With a launcher, you can open folders, start apps and set up more complicated workflows to run with a few keystrokes. If I want to open my “blogpost” folder, I hit a quick key combination (in my case, OPTION + space bar), start typing the folder name, and get a list:
I then hit “enter” and open the folder. No mouse needed.
I also use Alfred to type long URLs, start applications, and launch fancier workflows like “open Evernote and search for ‘capybara’.”
Again, no mouse needed.
Monthly time saved: 2 hours
Finally, learn to execute menu commands in your applications using your keyboard. I use a keyboard navigator called ShortCat. I type a key combination, then start typing the menu command, and poof, I can navigate the application using my keyboard. It also works in Safari, letting me click links on web pages from my keyboard.
ShortCat is Mac only, I’m afraid. On Windows, though, you can learn the shortcut keys within the application.
Monthly time saved: 1.5 hours
Do more, or take a nap
I hear a lot of people tell me “I don’t have time to learn that stuff!” That’s ironic but untrue. Yes, it takes a little time to learn these techniques—maybe a few minutes. But it pays off forever.
Nineteen hours per month is two and a half additional workdays. Or five solid naps. You choose. Either way, it’s worth it.