Relationship Between You, The Machine and other people
If you want to be the top performer in the 21st-century reality, you need to be the Master of your digital environment. Whatever your profession, being agile in front of the computer or smartphone is an equivalent of real-life cheat codes. Alpha Efficiency has a mission to organize these cheat codes into a meaningful action plan for you to follow. If you spend a lot of time in front of your handheld device, consider reading our iPhone power user’s manual.
This series on your digital environment will teach you which hardware is “Alpha Efficiency Approved”, what apps are getting the job done more efficiently, and what are the skills that will save you the most time. This is a small wiki page of all the things that transform your digital environment into one that is enabling you to create, work seamlessly, and help you spend the least amount of time in front of your tech, while enabling you to put more life into your life, and more profits into your business.
Why do we emphasize technology so much?
Today being good at technology today determines your income, free time, and overall satisfaction with life. Everywhere we go, people quickly notice that we as a company are extremely tech-savvy, and they always ask us for advice. This is an of itself brought us fame, where people around us consider our tech skills superior to those of their IT staff. This placed Alpha Efficiency as the premier digital services vendor for multiple SMEs and corporations. We share this wealth of knowledge, with our faithful readers. In this piece we talk about:
- Work satisfaction
- Skills that separate the wheat from the chaff
- Keyboard shortcuts
- Blind typing
- Text Expansion
- Task management and planning
- Reading and skimming
- Choosing Hardware – Creating a connection between the physical and digital world
Being tech-savvy is reshaping your perceived value as an employee, as you are always a “backup IT person” that saves a day, or changes the productivity infrastructure inside of your organization.
We’ve spent our entire company existence building up ourselves as a tech-savvy service provider, and we’ve done it without any formal certifications (even though some of our developers did graduate software engineering, we still have those that are self-taught). You too can become tech-savvy, and reap the benefits of the technology gap between others and yourself. It takes some curiosity and genuine interest in running your life through the dashboard and visual interface, but with enough dedication, doing your own thinking, and learning, you will become a digital leader of your organization.
Overall improvement in Work Satisfaction
When you are good with tech, you won’t frustrated, you will be less nervous and most importantly more satisfied with your life. This satisfaction is probably the primary reason why you will want to invest time and energy into becoming better with technology.
If I was to observe the way you work, I’d probably get upset by the amount of time that it takes you to complete a single task. Once you go “Alpha”, you will never want to revert back to the old ways, as it will be so archaic, almost barbaric.
That is how I perceive people that didn’t invest in their technological literacy. Whether you are a macOS or a Windows user, you should learn the basic navigation around your computer, and all the keyboard shortcuts that make navigation of your machine enjoyable, if not flat out easier.
Skills that separate the Wheat from the Chaff
Apart from the skills that are determined by your profession, I will write down the skills that can make a difference in your day to day tech usage, and that is more or less profession agnostic. Learning these skills will transform you into a jack of all trades kind of person. Being the jack of all trades is probably one of the most important characteristics of a modern-day employee because there are so many ad hoc things required in a contemporary office.
I can confess that my Jack of All Trades capabilities have helped me move my career in any direction, without having the formal education for those positions.
I will list out skills in their order of priority, and some of these won’t necessarily be “tech skills” per se, but they will be things that are traditionally completed in front of the computer.
I want you to develop muscle memory for all keyboard shortcuts in every single application that you are using. Lesson number one is that mouse is not your friend. Every time you use a mouse, you should have a reflex at the back of your mind that you are working slower than you could. Learn keyboard shortcuts, and kept them in your muscle memory, so that executing them feels as natural as using the mouse.
People don’t really understand how I move through programs without even lifting a finger from my keyboard, as I am tackling multiple screens and apps open at the same time. I am flowing through macOS like a spring breeze because I have muscle memory workflows that are moving information and images through multiple apps almost at the speed of thought. This is not that complicated, but it does happen because of muscle memory.
Let me reveal you my main navigation secrets:
- CMD + Tab – Switching through the applications
- CMD + Space – Opens spotlight, and through there I write up a few of the most commonly used applications, and I am able to move to that window, even if I don’t exactly know where it is located.
- Shortcuts for text navigation: These are probably the most important shortcuts that I use for writing documents or blog posts such as this one. Option + Left (or right) will move your text at the beginning (or end) of the next word. CMD + Left (Or Right) will move you to the beginning (or the end) of the row in which you are currently writing. Option + Up (Or Down), will put you to the beginning (or bottom) of the paragraph. Shift + Left (or right) will select navigate you word by word. Control + Left (or right) will highlight select the content in any given row.
Succession tasking with no time loss would be impossible without keyboard shortcuts. All of these things wouldn’t work as seamlessly for me if I didn’t master them, especially the ones that are helping me navigate through the maze of simultaneously opened windows.
This way operating a computer doesn’t feel like working, more like navigating tabs inside of my mind. Due to this speed, you are becoming increasingly dependent to top-notch hardware. When you are moving at this speed, you can sense when the machine is lagging behind you. You will encounter a situation where you are moving faster than your computer (or phone as well). This is probably going to push you towards the extremes of hardware speed. But the gains in time, things are done, and the financial impact that you create will easily outweigh the technological investment that you are putting into computing power.
After keyboard shortcuts, the next thing you will want to master is blind typing. What shortcuts do for navigation, blind typing is doing for communication and productivity of any written output. Mastering keyboard is essential not only for writing, but also for communication, programming, answering the emails, and all other daily activities that are text related.
Becoming a blind typer is a moderately difficult skill set, but the best part about it is that you can “learn it on the job”. When you are using your keyboard, you need to practice work mindfulness, and absolute consciousness about the ways your fingers are flying through the keyboard until you can visualize every single keystroke.
This entire article is written without a single glance at the keyboard, and I’ve never had any formal education on how to be a blind typer. This is what I want you to achieve as well.
Personally, I’ve learned blind typing through excessively chatting in IRC chatrooms back in the old days of the internet (circa 2004). I was texting for fun, and it was relatively disruptive to look at the fast-paced chatroom, and you wouldn’t be able to keep up with what’s going on if you didn’t have your eyes on the screen. You could imagine IRC as an archaic form of Discord or Slack.
This desire to keep up with the group of people that were happily chatting was pushing me to find a way to type faster, while simultaneously keeping my eyes on the screen. I had a burning desire to learn how to blind type, and I was already typing multiple hours a day.
So learn to crawl, before you learn how to walk. If you pay attention to the keyboard and try to gradually increase your typing speed, over time, if you use visualization techniques, you will be able to detach your eyes from the keyboard, and you too will be able to dramatically increase your typing speed, while keeping an eye on the words that are coming out on the screen in the blazing speed.
With blind typing alone you are indispensable, as you will be dramatically more responsive than an average person. I can confess that I am using this particular skill, mostly to stay ahead of my work, so I can create time in which I can expand my activity for personal productivity and projects, and of course: Leisure.
To further your computer mastery, I strongly suggest that after you learn blind typing, you start using Text Expander, or similar applications, that will allow you to expand large snippets of text that you frequently type. Text expansion is probably is one of the things that truly elevates programming to the next level.
Personally, I’ve saved 30 hours worth of typing for over 5 years. Things like my typing my address, phone number, some passwords (great to obfuscate possible keyloggers hidden on your computer), my website names, my personal name, and many many other things.
We think that Text Expansion not only saved me time but also enabled me to dramatically increase the number of forms that I am filling out. Text expansion is one of the overlooked forms of insanely increasing the output of your work.
I’ve used it personally, as well as professionally. Having things that are constantly repeated, and reducing the amount of workload to a bare minimum is going to transform your workflow from a boring job to an artistic masterpiece.
Reading and skimming for information
Becoming a faster reader is a critical component of learning new things. Reading is what is giving me the edge in getting acquainted with things I previously never heard about. Having a good understanding of the written word, and the capability to acquire new knowledge is an ultimate game changer for who you are. Reading is also one of the habits that I always highly suggest you implement. Some of the hardware that you have should be focused primarily on reading, and it wouldn’t hurt if you had a dedicated reading device.
Reading on electronic devices can be difficult, as it puts a strain on the eyes. This means you can Invest in your reading tech, whether it is a tablet, or if it is some e-reader, it is definitively worth it.
Task Management and Planning – making intelligent decisions
This skill is precisely defining your work framework in digital as well as in the real-world, and as such, it is a skill that will help you narrow down on your goals with precision. There are times in life when I don’t have the capacity to follow through on my task management, and during those times I am missing out on a lot of opportunities to batch tasks and complete projects.
Having good task management skills is essential to running a digital business. Whether you are doing things yourself, or someone else is helping you with your business, being able to keep track of multiple tasks simultaneously is what differentiates a successfully ran and operated online business from a bad one. Task management is a hard skill to develop as it requires experience, but more importantly, it requires discipline. This skill is one of the most trying ones, especially if you lack knowledge of prioritization, and a capacity to follow through.
Task management is a huge part of the Alpha Efficiency website, and a topic that we jumped into extensively. It is constantly expanding, and one of the most difficult skills to acquire for people with attention deficit disorder. It has been a struggle of my life to get better at work. When you are a distracted person (like myself), you can get busy the whole day, and feel like you haven’t accomplished anything when the clock runs out. Often times the day goes by, and you have no idea what you’ve actually worked on. This is diminishing your potential to feel good about the work you do, and it is one of the most important things that you have to follow through on “feeling accomplished”.
One of the other components of Task management is making decisions, and making decisions is extremely hard. We only have so much willpower in a given day, and for those of us that haven’t practiced willpower as a muscle, following through on these decisions might feel like mission impossible. In all likeliness, you are most likely better than me (discipline wise), when it comes to task management. Discipline and task management translates to all aspects of our lives, and as such, they leave a lasting impact on our lives quality.
Hence investing time and resources into becoming a better task manager and custodian of your responsibilities is going to help you navigate your life towards the goals you’ve decided to accomplish. Overlook building up this skill at your own peril.
Brainstorming – Getting New Ideas to harness excitement and motivation
Tapping into the creative side of your mind can help you make the right choices and decisions, or it can simply motivate you. Every time I acquire a new client, my primary goal is to see what kind of novel profitable activity can I introduce into their existing workflow, and for that, I am tapping into my creative capacity. Brainstorming isn’t something you are naturally born with, it is something you get better at with time.
We will reveal one little-known story secret behind brainstorming, it is very simple, and it makes a world of difference: “Do not Brainstorm By Yourself!” Always have a brainstorming partner handy, and keep it in a vivid conversation format, where you just throw out ideas to each other. Ideally, you will do this with someone who is actually involved with the project. Working in pairs is what makes a whole lot of difference in tackling the problems.
Two brains shooting ideas to each other is triggering social aspects of your brain and has your brain working with the ideas from the other person. This is causing a chain reaction in the end result. Of course, during this session, you will jolt the ideas down, and get them completed.
But given the limitation, brainstorming by yourself is a process that depends on your visualization and associative capacity. Not everyone is a natural brainstormer. If you are one of those that are struggling with brainstorming, get yourself a pen and paper, and start drawing out your associations on the paper, and if you don’t get enough of them, try to leave pre-defined empty space that will force your brain to “fill in the blank”.
This way you will create gaps that your brain will feel obligated to complete. It’s a little trick that can force you into creating new associations between objects that you are brainstorming about. Finally, to get better at brainstorming, more important than reading about it, is actually doing it. So don’t be shy, just make it a part of your weekly routine. It is not something that you need to do daily, but it is a great way to get alternative out of the box solutions to the problems that are in front of you. Brainstorming helped us make numerous business processes easier, just because we’ve detached from day to day thinking, and managed to see the problems from a different perspective, saving us a lot of time and resources, while making tasks easier than before.
Choosing Hardware – A connection between a digital and physical world
If there is a single defining point of your entire digital infrastructure, that is making a decision on hardware. Your attitude towards your technology is reflected in it. The way people are treating their technology tells me a lot about motivation levels. People that invest in tech, are better and more productive employees. It is not your companies responsibility to buy you your equipment, and most likely when they do, they will provide you with the sub-par tools.
Even if you aren’t making big dollars, you should invest in your own premium hardware. The mere fact that you are spending 8+ hours a day in front of your computer, warrants investment into your working computer one of the most important ones. If you can choose to buy a better screen with a higher refresh rate and a retina-like pixel density, you should do so. The big part of productivity is feeling comfortable with the technology that you use. If you’re using the 1080p monitor that creates a headache and discomfort as opposed to a 120 Hz 5k resolution screen, the choice over your health is quite clear.
In my book-buying, faster and better tech is a more important investment than buying a car. The car you’re driving 30 to 120 minutes per day, but you are sitting in front of the computer for hours on end during the day. The amount of time spent with any particular device in your day is determining how you should set your own priorities.
Investing in technology is transient, but considering that so much of our days we spend glued to our screens, having the best possible user experience is something you should not compromise on. I encourage you to invest in your hardware and software tools at any possible opportunity.
The Next Steps
This is only the short synopsis of what encompasses my overall thinking behind productivity. If all of us embarked on the road to improve our performance, we could kick-start a digital renaissance, improving the value of our personal, as well as the lives of people around us. Our work output is probably the thing that we can impact the most, so it is up to us to assume 100% responsibility for the things that we create, as well as for the pleasure that we derive while we do our daily tasks. That means taking yourself to the next level, making a difference, and loving what you do. It’s up to you…