Productivity Hacks – Shortcuts to Success (Literally)

If you’re like me, the day goes by way too quickly. It seems that I can never get as much done as I want to, but I am still very productive throughout the day. My secret is that I studied for years high in the Himalayan Mountains in Nepal, meditating, and focusing my inner self to…

Okay, maybe that part isn’t true, but there is something you can practice every day to become much more efficient and productive at your job. That thing just so happens to be learning keyboard shortcuts. Yes, I know, using a mouse is easy, but you’d be surprised at how much time keyboard shortcuts can save you, and how easy it is to pick it up. Plus, using them can help you prevent from getting injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome.

Before you start, don’t let this list overwhelm you! I would recommend taking one or two shortcuts from the list, and integrating them into your routine every day. Once you are comfortable with the ones you chose, pick a couple more to learn. Slowly but surely, you’ll become the Bobby Fischer of shortcuts, except hopefully you won’t go crazy.

I’ll talk about 3 different areas to improve upon your skills.

 

Windows 7+

I use a PC, but Mac has many similar shortcuts. Users of Windows 7 and later can use these universally across all programs. The ones I find most useful are below, you can find an extensive list of shortcuts provided by Microsoft here.

  • Alt+Tab → Cycles from one window to another. One of the most useful and well known shortcuts out there.
  • Ctrl+Alt+Tab → Just like Alt+Tab, but it lets you see all the windows you have open, and use the arrow keys to navigate to the window you want. Hit Enter to select the window you want open. This is fantastic when you have a lot of windows to navigate through.
  • Alt+F4 → Closes a window. Can also be used to shutdown your computer. Well known, but super useful and worth a mention.
  • Windows Key + Left or Right Arrow Key → Snaps a window to the left of right of your monitor. I love this shortcut. It’s perfect if you want to compare two things on the same screen.
  • Windows Key + Up or Down Arrow Key → Maximizes or minimizes a window. Not as useful for me, but well worth pointing out.
  • Ctrl+Left or Right Arrow Key → If you have your cursor in a text box, your cursor will jump an entire word at once. Just hold down Ctrl, then tap left or right.
  • Ctrl+Shift+Left or Right Arrow Key → This will do the same as the previous shortcut, but it will also highlight the word each time you tap left or right. This is incredibly useful, and is a huge time saver.

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Whole words can be highlighted very quickly. And yes, I know I’m using Notepad 🙂
  • Ctrl+Backspace → Deletes an entire word at a time. This might by my most used shortcut. It saves an incredible amount of time, so I urge you to give this one a try!
  • Ctrl+C. X. or V → Copy, cut, paste (respectively). Pretty much everyone knows these, but it’s worth mentioning.

That’s all for my Windows shortcuts. Like I said, there are tons more that can be used, but those are a few that I use most often. For Mac users, most of these can be done using the Command key rather than the Windows key. Next up, Chrome shortcuts!

 

Chrome:

Google Chrome is the most used internet browser in the world. It’s also what I use for most of my tasks. I find it fast, easy to use, and very customizable. I also use Gmail quite extensively, so almost everything I do is contained within Chrome which makes these shortcuts even more effective.

  • Ctrl+N → Brings up a new window for Chrome. This is really nice especially if you use dual monitors because let’s say you want to bring up Gmail next to your Google Doc you’re working on. Just use the new window shortcut, and use Windows Key+Left Arrow to move the new window to your left monitor.
  • Ctrl+T → New tab. If I need to Google something real quick, or bring up another tap for Gmail, I use this shortcut.
  • Ctrl+W → Closes a tab. Let’s say I just brought up a tab to Google something, and I’m all finished with it. I just fire off Ctrl+W and I’m back where I need to be.
  • Ctrl+R → Refreshes a page.
  • Ctrl+1 through 9 → Navigate to a tab. Let’s say you have 6 tabs open and you want to navigate to the 4th tab. Just tap Ctrl+4 and there you go!
  • Ctrl+Tab → Cycles through tabs in the same way Alt+Tab cycles through open windows.
  • Ctrl+Shift+Tab →Same as above, but goes in the opposite direction.
  • Ctrl+Left Mouse Button or just click your scroll wheel → Opens a link in a new tab. One of my most used shortcuts.
  • Ctrl+L → Highlights address bar. I just discovered this shortcut recently, and I’m already using it all the time.
  • Ctrl+Enter while cursor is in the address bar → Adds www. and .com to whatever you have in the bar. So if I put ‘facebook’ in the address bar and hit Ctrl+Enter, I’d end up with www.facebook.com. Cool, right?

 

Gmail

Here are some of Gmail’s shortcuts that you can use “right out of the box”.

  • Ctrl+Enter while composing a message → Sends the message.
  • Ctrl+K → Turns highlighted text into a link.
  • Ctrl+\ → Clears text formatting. This is another one I found recently, and I already find myself using it all the time. If you are someone who finds themselves cutting and pasting text from Word or websites into your emails frequently, you will probably get annoyed with having to change the text formating all of the time. You’ll be surprised how often you use this one.

I am a big fan of Gmail not just for its core functionality, but also because for things like Google Labs, and third party add ons like Streak. Additionally, Gmail has some great shortcuts that aren’t available right away. You’ll have to enable them first, and here’s how.

1) Go to your Gmail Settings.

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2) Turn on keyboard shortcuts under General.

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And that’s it! Now we’re ready to roll. These shortcuts allow for a ton of additional options than just the default Gmail shortcuts, and I won’t even begin to scratch the surface here. You can learn more about that from Google here. One thing to note is that with these settings enabled, it’s easy to go through your inbox with your only your keyboard. Navigating the inbox can be done with the arrow keys, and selecting messages can be done using the ‘X’ key. Doing this allows for some really rapid inbox clearing.

  • E → Archives a message. I’m a big fan of keeping my inbox as clear as possible, and this is a great way to do that. You can archive a message if you are in it, or if you have it selected when viewing your inbox.
  • # (Shift+3) → Deletes a message if you are viewing it, or if you have it selected in the inbox which can be done using the X key!
  • C  → Compose a message. It’s great being able to just use that shortcut for a quick message and then fire it off with Ctrl+Enter.
  • R → Replies to the sender of the message.
  • A → Replies to all people in the message.
  • Ctrl+Shift+C → Moves the cursor to the Cc field making it easy to add in new people to your email.
  • G+I → Navigates you to the inbox.  There are a ton more navigation shortcuts you can use, but this is the most useful for me.

 

That’s all I’m going to get into for now, but I hope it helps you become more efficient when working. Feeling productive is great, and being able to squeeze a little more into your workday pays off . It is well worth the brief learning curve of memorizing and integrating shortcuts into your everyday routine.

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