The Peculiar Aversion to Hotkeys

Keyboard logo

For once, here’s a post written about a pet peeve of mine. If you’re not into reading other people’s rants, then you may want to close this. This is about people who like to do things the hard way on computers. Instead of pressing Ctrl-Shift-Esc to open Task Manager, they would press Ctrl-Alt-Delete and click on Open Task Manager. Instead of Shift-Delete to permanently delete files, they right-click on the file and click delete, then click Yes to send to Recycle Bin, then right-click on the Recycle Bin and click on Empty Recycle Bin and click on OK to empty the Recycle Bin.

See how long-winded that is? If you suggest to them that there’s an easier way to do that, they reply, “But this is what I’m used to,” with a whiny voice like it’s an inborn condition that can no longer be changed. It’s like their workflow is a Rube Goldberg machine that needs to be reset every time, and those extra seconds add up to a lot. It gets a lot worse if that thing happens to be what they do for a living. What kind of professional would refuse a more efficient way of doing things? (Old people, for one thing.)

Please consider that I understand that people do what they do and you can’t really change their mind, especially when it comes to these things. This was not intended to infringe on other people’s freedom to do things however they want, and it won’t be able to anyway since a little blog post can’t really make people change their habits.

But if this suggestion-slash-rant gets through you if you happen to be one of them, then I’m happy to have helped.

NOTE: This is mostly a rant, so consider yourself warned. People like this bug me the hell out. If you’re offended by the following, then that’s too bad. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

“But I’m used to this.”

Sounds like the incomprehensible moaning and mewling of a child who doesn’t know any better. Sorry if that offends, but I can’t stress enough how stupid that statement is. Maybe I’m not adamant enough about it to say it to your face if ever, but it’s something that anyone who wants to improve in their performance must get rid of because it’s a bullshit mentality.

It’s true that once something has become ingrained as routine, it’s mostly stuck there unless there’s enough motivation to change it. That’s not really a bad thing in a macro scale since it could be the most effective way you can accomplish that task as a whole, but it’s poison in the micro scale.

I’ve read a good bit of Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit, which broke down what makes habits stick and unstick. If you either don’t have the book or are just too lazy to read, watch this video to learn the gist of it.

There’s the cue, the habit itself, and the reward. In order to change the habit, it’s recommended that you keep the cue and reward mostly intact and find an action that is just as effective or even better in bringing that reward. In this case with hotkeys, it’s doing an action on the computer and getting shit done.

So when you do the three-finger salute by pressing Ctrl-Alt-Delete and then clicking “Start Task Manager” to open task manager to force close a program, you should be able to do Ctrl-Shift-Esc and get the same reward. Perhaps the only barrier is actually remembering to do it, but people change brands and preferences all the time anything.

This isn’t rocket science. It’s not hard.

Little Details Do Count

All those seconds wasted on doing specific things the harder way add up to precious time better spent on doing other things like making decisions, solving problems, or just finishing work quickly so you can go home. Time is the most valuable asset in life; as said in the movie Fight Club, “On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.”

Getting used to using hotkeys isn’t complicated at all. If you’re reading this, you most likely are not an infant. Using hotkeys is not a sea change like being weened off of breast milk at 2 years old. If you’re just someone who uses the computer mostly for leisure, then maybe you can be excused. Sorry that you have to read this far and had your feelings hurt.

But if a major part of your profession is working on the computer and you’re apprehensive about being able to do shit more efficiently, then you deserve less than what your getting paid for. Learning how to use hotkeys, as well as other efficiency techniques and strategies, is a part of your continued growth as someone who uses a computer to make a living.

For example, if you’re a graphic artist who clicks on the icon on the toolbar on the left of Photoshop instead of pressing M to select the marquee tool, then you’re not that good at your job. Your colleagues are leaving you in the dust with their ninja skills because they’ve incorporated the use of hotkeys and other efficiency techniques into their fundamental skill set, which then becomes muscle memory with practice.

We’re not talking about the difference between factory-made and hand-built. There’s nothing admirable or romantic with doing things the hard way on computers. Stop whining and get with the program.


Despite this post turning out to be an elaborate rant, I hope it did get the message through. It’s not commenting on social issues, so I doubt it would be a subject of much contention, but you’d never know with some people.

To finish this post off, here’s an insightful quote that the Internet says is attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson (which I haven’t been able to confirm).

“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”

Please leave whatever reactions, questions, or suggestions you may have on the comment section below. You may also leave a message on either Facebook or Twitter. Thank you for dropping by.