I make my wife mad sometimes. Just sometimes. One occasion is when she’s watching me do something on the computer, or I’m trying to show her how to use an application that’s new to her. She has a hard time following what I do because I hardly ever use the mouse. I don’t even know what the mouse menu commands are many times, because I’ve used the keyboard shortcuts for so long they’ve become second nature. I like using them because they’re fast.
Email sucks up a lot of our time & attention. I’ve talked about the effective use of e-mail, what to put in e-mails, how to write good e-mails, and when not to use e-mail. If you’re like many professionals or students, you get hundreds if not thousands of e-mails a year (if not every month). A couple of seconds saved processing an email will add up to minutes an hour, hours a week, and weeks a year. If you can get back a week or two every year, why wouldn’t you?
The efficient use of e-mail, getting through your in-basket quickly, means handling each e-mail and deciding what to do with it as quickly as possible. Getting through all the mail in your in-box, getting it to zero, is the goal here. Once you’re done you should have an empty in box and a list of new actions or appointments to do later. Learning and using keyboard shortcuts can speed up this process incredibly.
The point of doing it this way is that once you’re done, you know there are no other surprises hidden in your e-mail waiting to ambush you. Then you can go and work on those to-do’s that are most important with a clear mind and conscience, knowing you are working on what’s most important to you right now. Effectiveness and efficiency together gives us focus, which is a very powerful state of mind.
A couple of my favourite shortcuts are:
- [ctrl-D] — to quickly DELETE an e-mail hold down the ctrl key (usually found on the bottom row of the keyboard on either side of the space key) and press the letter “D” once. This will delete your e-mail.
- [ctrl-shift-V] — FILES the current e-mail. The default is the same as the last folder you filed into. Navigate the pop-up using the arrow keys. Up and down moves you, er, up and down. Left and right will close and open sub-folders.
- [ctrl-K] — creates a new task in Outlook. Many times while reading e-mail you’ll decide that what you need to do with it is to do something else. This is a quick way to set a reminder if you decide it will take more than a couple of minutes, so you’ll do it later. Remember, the point of processing your in-box is to get through it as quickly as possible.
- [ctrl-G] — makes that task recursive. In other word it makes it a repeating task.
- [alt] — the alt key (also usually found on the bottom row on either side of the space key) will show you what other shortcut keys are available. This is different from using the [ctrl] key, because it is used in sequence, not together, with the letter or number that follows. Press [alt], let go, and press the next key you need.If you have an e-mail open, pressing the [alt] key will show you that pressing ‘F’ next will give you the ‘Office’ button, which gives you access to all sorts of goodies like ‘save’, ‘save-as’, ‘delete’, ‘new mail message’, and lots of others. [alt]-H gives me ‘reply’, ‘reply all’, ‘forward’, and many others. I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader to figure out how to attach an e-mail in your in-box to a new task. Hint: it involves shortcut keys, not the mouse.
It’s a little awkward at first, but once you learn a the ones you use the most. It’s like learning to touch type. You’ll wonder how your ever did without it.
You can find many keyboard shortcuts for Outlook using the help function using ‘keyboard shortcuts’ as the search term. This also applies to Power Point, Word, and non-Microsoft programs as well.