Play A Computer Like An Instrument
Being able to use a computer like a master virtuoso plays a violin makes you fast. It gives you a competitive advantage due to the amount of time we spend in front of our screens.  While it takes commitment to learn these skills (and even harder to break old, bad habits), it's creates serious multiplier effect for anyone who really cares about optimizing how much they can accomplish in a day.  

It’s been four years since I wrote my last blog post on my top efficiency hacks.  This time, I wanted to create more of a living document where others could post their top tricks too, and we can learn from each other, so I've created this collaborative hackpad.  Here are the rules to play:

  1. Create a Baseline: You can only improve what you can measure, so start by learning how (in)efficient you are on a computer.  I've created the F1 GeekSpeed challenge to form a common baseline. I encourage you to see how your speed stacks up to others who have tried it, and I’ll happily add you to the leaderboard.

  1. Add (or comment on) your favorite hacks by posting a comment to this collaborative hackpad. I’ll open up full edit access once I see your tip, and I'll prioritize the most helpful hacks in the list.

  1. Learn the basics first:  If your F1 GeekSpeed baseline time is over 1 minute, you are probably a slow typer, and that’ll kill your ability to work quickly and efficiently.  Learning to type at least 40 words per minute (and ideally over 60WPM) is the most basic of skills in this knowledge economy.  Don’t let yourself off the hook if you’re a slow typer.  Improve your speed.  Typing is the most fundamental building block to working efficiently on a computer.  It’s so basic it might seem dumb to even include it here, but I so consistently see slow typists who justify “I’m just slow” as being OK that I’m specifically calling it out as not being OK.

Here are the tools & hacks I use to be insanely productive on a computer (prioritized based on how valuable they are for me):

Slack

  • What it does: Slack helps teams communicate better.  But it’s oh so much more than that.  I’ve got a bunch of Slack hacks that I can’t share publicly (I will someday), but suffice it to say that Slack is a complete game changer, especially for B2B startups.
  • Use cases:
  • Largely replaces email.  If you’re reading this blog post, you’re probably already using Slack.
  • We use it as a lead generation tool… ask me for details; too sensitive to share pubicly
  • What it costs: Slack is infamous for its sneaky (but transparent) pricing model, which is best-in-class at turning “adopters into addicts” and then making them pay for their addiction.  It’s worth it.  Here’s their pricing page (they give discounts for non-profits).
  • Pro-tips to optimize it:
  • Who Submitted It (and how to contact you for more details): DROdio

CloudApp

  • What it does: Their tagline is “Show, Don’t Tell.”  Yep.  A picture is worth 1,000 words.  CloudApp lets you communicate quickly with screenshots, screencasts & other rich media vs. being relegated to the dark ages of just words.  It’s a game changer.  CloudApp breaks down communication barriers between applications.  I’ve been a CloudApp user since 2010 and in that time I’ve created 29,532 “drops”.  That’s an average of 13.48 drops per day, every day, for the last 2,190 days.  To say I use this tool a lot is an understatement.  In fact, you’ll see me using CloudApp throughout this post to “show” you how to use other tools.  Anytime you see a URL in http://drod.io/123xyz format, that’s a CloudApp-generated “drop” — a screenshot I took on my computer that was automatically uploaded by CloudApp and turned into a URL.
  • Use cases:
  • What if you have a Slack conversation with someone — say a customer — and want to share that conversation with someone else — say, on your team?  I use a keyboard shortcut, CMD+D, to quickly take a screenshot of the Slack convo, which (when CloudApp is installed on your computer) will automatically upload the picture to a URL.  Here’s an example: http://drod.io/3T0Y0S15390V (Meta: I’m using a CloudApp screenshot to show you how CloudApp works).
  • What if you get an email you want to quickly share in Slack with your co-workers?  Instead of forwarding it, just snap a pic of it and drop it into the appropriate Slack channel.
  • What if you want to quickly train someone on how to use a tool?  I use SFT+CMD+W to quickly make a screencast of whatever I'm referencing.  The screencast might only be 30 to 90 seconds, but in that time I can convey a set of instructions much more powerfully than I could by just typing.  Perfect example: In the pro-tips section below I took a quick screencast showing you how to use both Skitch & CloudApp together.  I used CloudApp to take that screencast and turn it into a URL so you can watch it.
  • We use OfficEngine to do our back-office (they’re great, BTW).  They mis-categorized some of our transactions in Xero, our accounting software.  Instead of having to spend time OTP w/ Luis, the rep, I made a 10 minute screencast with CloudApp and emailed it to him so he could go fix the issues asynchronously:

  • I’m also using CloudApp to quickly & visually show you how I use CloudApp.  # Meta.    (A picture really is worth a thousand words)
  • What it costs: They have both individual and business plans.  Details here.
  • Pro-tips to optimize it:
  • Make sure you set up keyboard shortcuts to take screenshots and screencasts
  • Although CloudApp has annotation features, I use a combination of Skitch + CloudApp to annotate (like the screenshot above).  Here’s a video on how I do it (I just used CloudApp to take that screencast, BTW)
  • Who Submitted It (and how to contact you for more details): DROdio

Vimium

  • What it does: It’s called “the hacker’s browser” and for good reason.  Vimium is a chrome extension that mimics “vim,” a text editor programmers use.  Vimium lets you take keyboard shortcuts to a whole new level.  Watch the demo video here to learn more and to install the extension.  
  • Use cases:
  • Where to get it (or how to set it up)
  • What it costs:
  • Pro-tips to optimize it:
  • Who Submitted It (and how to contact you for more details): DROdio

Paper (previously called Hackpad)