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.
Laptops are great. I have one. I paid good money for it and I really enjoy using it. It’s great for taking notes, looking up references, and catching up on my e-mail during those boring, never-ending meetings. We’re all busy, and killing two birds with one stone is a good thing. Multi-tasking is the sign of an effective manager, right?
Don’t do it. Everybody is just going to assume you’re doing e-mail or cruising the Internet. If other people in the room don’t think you’re listening, you’re not. Communicating is what the listener does.
Here’s what’s happening while you’re not paying attention:
The Meeting Goes Longer — The meeting will take longer while you catch up, ask people to repeat themselves, or think about what you should have thought about while you were paying attention to something else. If it really is a boring meeting making it longer is probably not what you want. Even worse, while you focus attention elsewhere you might miss a critical bit of information that leads to some misunderstanding. The result? More meetings.
You’re Being Rude — You’re being rude to the people you work with, who work for you, or maybe even your boss. Especially your boss. Especially if she’s the one running the meeting. The person who writes your annual appraisal. That document that determines your raise. Being rude to the people you work with or who work for you isn’t any better. Unless you work by yourself in your own office we depend on our peers and subordinates to get things done. Telling them they don’t matter by ignoring them during a meeting isn’t going to get you far when it’s your turn to draw from the teamwork bank. If you really have nothing to give or gain from the meeting then why are you there?
You Called the Meeting? — If you called the meeting and you’re playing with your laptop, then stand up and slap yourself. Right now. Hard. If you really need an explanation for this then you should go be a taxi driver or something. Then you’ll have all the time you need to do text messaging and cruising the Internet while driving your fares around. Bet you don’t get a lot of repeat customers though.
PDAs Count — The Crack-berry Prayer will not be forgiven. At least if you fall asleep during a meeting that’s somewhat excusable. Your have a new baby at home. You were up late last night putting that big proposal together. “Hiding” your Blackberry under the conference room table with your head bowed isn’t fooling anybody. You are deliberately ignoring everybody else in the room. You might as well dance on the table and sing about how this meeting is a complete waste of your time, and you’d rather be anywhere else but here.
- A Teleconference is Still a Meeting – Yes, they can tell. The click of the keyboard keys will give you away. Or when your end of the conversation is on mute. Or that you don’t know what’s going on and have to ask for a restatement.
I knew a manager once who was enamoured with dragging his laptop from meeting to meeting. It was his portable office. We would all wait very patiently while he set up his cord-less mouse, numeric keyboard, power supply, and Ethernet connection for a meeting that ended up taking ten minutes. Then he would tear it all down again and hurry off to the next meeting for which he was now late. After never using it during the entire ten-minutes except to check his e-mail.
The image he was projecting was not one of a busy but effective executive. He came across as either somebody who was having too much fun playing with all his toys, an ineffective manager, or as an obnoxious time-waster. “I’m more important than you, so you can just wait while I get myself settled.” Not really a good message.
Leave the laptop on your desk. Unless you’ve been assigned to drive the presentation or take minutes you don’t need it. Bring a notebook, leave it open in front of you, fold your hands in your lap, and pay attention. This is your job during the meeting. Pay attention and contribute.