Do you ever wish for more time?
I have yet to meet a person working in the non-profit or education sector who feels like they have just the right amount of time to do everything that they need to do. In mission-driven work in particular, the urgency to do our work quickly and efficiently carries a lot of weight, because we are working towards impacts that can change the trajectory of people’s lives. So whenever we have tasks that feel like time-wasters, it isn’t just annoying because our own personal time was wasted - it can have a negative impact on our part in the missions we are serving. That’s not good. Plus, it is super annoying.
The surprising benefits of keyboard shortcuts
If you want to save time using Excel, then you want to use keyboard shortcuts. Using keyboard shortcuts just means that instead of navigating and choosing options with your mouse or your touchpad, you are doing it with keys on the keyboard. And yes, it actually does save you time. You might only see it saving a little bit of time here and there, but that all adds up in a big way.
How much time do you save in a simple copy & paste when you use keyboard shortcuts instead of your mouse? Probably between 1 and 5 seconds. It doesn’t sound like that much, does it? On the other end of the spectrum, this guy showed that it would take 9 hours to scroll to the bottom of your Excel spreadsheet, if you really wanted to spend your time doing that. If you don’t want to spend 9 hours wasting time in Excel, you could use a keyboard shortcut to save you 8 hours and 59 seconds. These might be examples on the extreme ends of time savings and wasting, but they illustrate a good point.
I estimate that keyboard shortcuts save me between 2 and 4 dozen hours each year.
That is a day or two. I save about a day or two of time that would otherwise have been spent in Excel getting to do something else, like play with my daughter, watch football, go snowboarding, get more tattoos, read the New Yorker - the things that I like to do. For people working in non-profits and education, that could mean hours of time spent on instruction, or community building, advocacy, fundraising, relationship building, or whatever it is that you do so well and adds so much value to your missions - instead of wasting time in Excel.
But there is even more time that is harder to estimate.
Keyboard shortcuts aren’t just about whizzing around your spreadsheet and not worrying if you forgot your mouse at home. For me, the benefits were a lot more than just that, and have definitely saved me even more time than I can count. Learning and using the keyboard shortcuts actually taught me about the way Excel is built and how it works. Getting a sense of how the shortcuts worked also let me see how Excel “expects” you to set up information inside of it. The shortcuts were created assuming a certain way of information being put in Excel, and knowing that can help you choose better ways to enter information and keep it organized. For me, keyboard shortcuts gave me a sense of ownership, confidence, and skill that I didn’t have before. Once I started to use them more frequently, I started learning other technical skills more quickly. I found that using keyboard shortcuts helped me build good habits around using Excel, and having good habits are a huge part of making Excel work for you.
Now that you want them, how can you get them?
I used to think that the best resource for keyboard shortcuts was a downloadable and printable sheet of 200+ shortcuts for PCs and Macs. I mean, it had everything on it, what’s better than having everything? If I would recommend any of the MANY resources like this out there, it would be this one from ExcelJet - and I do reference this resource sometimes myself. But, I don’t think I ever used this resource to really “learn” keyboard shortcuts. I could look up new ones, but the knowledge never really stuck, so I would have to look them up over and over again. And honestly, I couldn’t really think of a better approach. But then I heard about Hot Key Excellence.
It’s a game! A game to learn keyboard shortcuts!
Alright, maybe I’m a little too excited about this. It is still in its beginning stages, and I imagine it will continue to get better and better. I’ll admit, I don’t really need this game. I find working in Excel to be as exciting as a game already, and I practice just by doing my work. But I can imagine that this will be a game-changer (no pun intended) for anyone who wants a little more guidance, interaction, and fun for learning their keyboard shortcuts. I’ve gone through a few rounds of the free version, and I was impressed at the approach and the potential.
I am all about anything that is going to make using Excel a better experience for you, and help save you time working in a spreadsheet and maximize your time out in the world, serving your mission. Let me know if you try it out and what you think of it!
I incorporate keyboard shortcuts into all of my coaching sessions and trainings, so if you are looking for more customized support, let’s set up some time to chat about your Excel needs.