The other day, I was trying to show something to my coworker on his laptop and as he was doing a bunch of things on his laptop, I noticed that he was clicking his mouse into different menu options and doing things very manually. Things such as grouping items and ungrouping items together or copying the formatting in one cell or paragraph and pasting the formatting into another.

I know that when I first did this, I thought that there must be a better way – and I realized the magic of keyboard shortcuts.

Although this could be a post just about keyboard shortcuts, I thought what better way to help me remember these keyboard shortcuts then to mix them with ideas on one of my favourite subjects: personal growth and development. Keep on reading to see what I mean:

Ctrl + C / Ctrl + V – Copy paste

Copy pasta! It’s probably in everyone’s repertoire of keyboard shortcuts (and if not, I can’t imagine how painfully slow it must be to select text, right click on the text or select the menu option, copy it, and then again, right click / select the menu option and paste it.

But how does this idea apply to your personal growth and development? The idea here is to ‘copy’ the things that work in other areas of your life and then ‘paste’ it into areas where you want to get more results. For example, I recently completed my PMP and one of the methods of studying that I used was a flashcard system. I found that the flashcards were a great way of not just practicing memorizing terms and concepts but a fantastic way of practicing recalling, which is what you really want. One of my goals is to learn Chinese (among other languages) and since I’ve always had a hard time studying Chinese, I thought that I would use the flash card system that worked for my PMP and apply it to studying Chinese – creating flash cards of the vocabulary I want to learn and practicing the act of recalling.

Ctrl G / Ctrl + Shift + G

A shortcut used in PowerPoint to group and ungroup items together so that you can manipulate them together (e.g., move items together, re-size them). Given that management consultants use PowerPoint all the time, this is just one of those handy shortcuts that can really help with manipulating items on the screen without doing each item one at a time (e.g., making them the same colour, arranging them on the screen).

In terms of applying this to personal growth, I can see this being similar to reading many, many books on the same subject, maybe in parallel or maybe close together. For example, if you really want to be financially literate and get your finances in order, read all the best books on Finance, synthesize your ideas, see where the authors disagree on specific things (say budgeting) and make conclusions on your own.

Three finger slide up on the Macbook or Alt-Tab on the PC

By sliding three fingers up on the Macbook, you are able to see all the active windows on your laptop at once (and the same with Alt-Tab). This makes it easy to shift into different work immediately or to switch between tasks – for example, if you are copying data from one document to another.

For the most ambitious of us out there, we lead lives filled with lots of activities. Every week or every month, I like to take a step back to see what I’m spending my time on. Am I spending a lot of time cleaning, doing chores and other things that don’t really add value to my life – and is this something that I can either delegate or outsource to ‘buy’ back the time? Am I spending time doing work that I don’t really enjoy? Barbara Corcoran has a great concept here where she creates love and hate lists of all the activities that she has done in the past month. She then tries to do more of the activities on her love list and tries to figure out how to outsource, delegate or ignore the hate list of activities.


On PCs, this is the keyboard shortcut for copying and pasting formatting – for example, if you have a paragraph in word that you want to match up with other paragraphs, you can copy the formatting of the paragraph you like and paste that same formatting into other paragraphs.

In my life, I’m very cognizant of the mental energy I need to make decisions. In my home, I like to be quite organized and one very key concept in organizing is to have to a place for everything. What I mean is that for your keys, you should have one place that you always keep your keys in (either on your kitchen counter, near your front door in a basket, etc.). If you buy lots of books like me, have a dedicated shelf (or shelves) for your books or on your night stand. The reason for having a place for everything is because when it comes time to clean / organize your home, you know where to put everything AND you also know where to get that item if you need it. When I first moved into my new home, I always spent 5 – 10 minutes looking for scissors! It was annoying and I needed it all the time to open boxes and cut packaging off new items. Now, my new home has a dedicated drawer with multiple scissors so that I know where to get it if I need it. Another way that you can apply this same concept to your life is to organize things in similar manners across categories – if your calendar is organized by color – red for work items, blue for personal items, green for birthdays, etc. then you can also use the same color categorization for your receipts (using red for work expenses, blue for personal expenses). This helps to reduce the stress on your working memory because you’ll have one system across many different areas of your life.

Ctrl + Z / Ctrl + Y

Undo and redo. Possibly one of the first keyboard shortcuts that you learn.

I like to apply the undo and redo concept into the things in my life that really do not take a lot of time to do. Ramit Sethi has a book buying rule – whenever you have the option of choosing between two books to buy / read, do both. In this case, I try not to spend any time considering when it is just as simple to take action and undo if I am wrong. This includes purchases that are under 10 dollars, deciding whether I should exercise or do something else if I have nothing else to do (exercise is the better option), drinking water if I feel thirsty and any other activity that has small or limited consequences that can be undone even if I’m wrong. I once made the ‘mistake’ of eating beef liver but the liver costed me less than a $1 and I ended up learning that frying liver was not the way to eat it.

CTRL + ALT + M – insert comment

Ctrl + ALT + M inserts comments in Word – a lot of the times, I use it to provide feedback or suggestions to others when reviewing documents and it is a lot quicker than right clicking and inserting a comment (or clicking up in the menu and inserting a comment).

One thing that I do in my life is write down notes to myself in post-it notes and then stick them in different places where I need to remind myself of certain things. Maybe I need to return books to the library – so I’ll stick a post-it note next to my keys to remember to take the library books with me when I head out for the day. Maybe I need to remember to replace the batteries in my computer mouse so I will add a reminder in my calendar on my phone. These small things help me to remember to do specific things and once I’ve added that note to somewhere, I forget it so that I do not have to worry about it.

I’ll end with one of my favourite stories of how Richard Feynman was asked how he came up with solutions to really difficult problems. He said that he likes to keep about 7 problems at the top of his mind. Then, he’ll go and explore different fields of study (he is a physicist but had lots of diverse interests such as lockpicking, language learning) – so for instance, he’ll take a look into biology papers or in mathematics. He will then take a look at some of the difficult problems in those fields and understand the solutions that they used. Once he understands those solutions, he will then apply that back to the problems at the top of his mind to see if it can give him a new angle. Maybe a paper on a new computer algorithm will give him the insight into solving one of his physics problems.

And that’s what I try to do in my life – I try to combine unrelated ideas in different ways to see what the unexpected connections are or whether new ideas result. What are some unexpected connections you have made in your life from connecting disparate ideas or concepts together?