Why are Excel shortcut myths dangerous?
Why, you ask? Because Excel is the most popular business software ever in the world (hundreds of millions of users), and probably the most important. If you are in the business world, you need to know Excel, and the faster you can be at Excel (e.g., with shortcuts), the faster your business (or your part of it) will run. The faster you and your business can run, the more successful you will be. This means: promotions, pay increases and greater job satisfaction. Being fast at Excel makes you more valuable as employee, which increases your upward mobility on the pay scale. All kinds of new possibilities are opened up for such magnificent people.
If you decide to put off learning shortcuts, then you are putting off advancing your career. Therefore, any myths and misconceptions that keep you from learning shortcuts are dangerous to your career. Multiply this by several hundred million people and you’re hindering the global economy!!! You are in fact decreasing the total amount of cosmic happiness!!! These myths are dangerous indeed! They are nearly as dangerous and misguided as the ancient practice of bloodletting (see below). Bloodletting is as smart as avoiding Excel shortcuts. See, these evil men below are simultaneously bleeding the naked guy in the chair and telling him Excel shortcuts are bad for his health.
Myth #1: All Excel shortcuts are keyboard shortcuts
False. The longest way to complete actions is often by using your mouse on the Ribbon. Therefore, anything faster than this method could be counted as a shortcut. Therefore, right-clicking and using the context menu that appears is a type of shortcut for many actions, since it’s faster than using the mouse on the Ribbon. The same could be said for modifications to your Quick Access Toolbar (QAT). Putting an icon on your QAT can allow you to complete an action faster than accessing the icon through your ribbon (otherwise, why would you put it there?). Finally, when you right click to use the context menu, you don’t have to make your selection with your mouse. Instead, you can simply type the shortcut letter associated with the menu choice (e.g., “D” for Delete) — I call this type of Excel shortcut a “hybrid” shortcut, since it’s a combination of mouse and keyboard action in one shortcut. So there are plenty of shortcuts to learn that are not keyboard shortcuts.
Myth #2: You have to give up your mouse to use Excel shortcuts effectively
False. First, see #1 above. Second, by taking full advantage of keyboard shortcuts that use only your left hand, and combining these shortcuts with those that keep the right hand on the mouse (e.g., by right clicking), you can become pretty darned fast with shortcuts without giving up your mouse. In fact, I advocate just this type of approach. I recommend keeping your right hand on the mouse except for those cases when moving it to the keyboard is clearly faster. And those cases are not as frequent as you might be led to believe. Therefore, you need to “abandon” your mouse only periodically to become much faster at Excel. I feel so strongly about this I’ve written a book on it called Excel Shortcut Strategies.
Myth #3: Excel shortcuts are hard to learn
False. Step one is to prioritize the tasks that you perform often, and list out the corresponding fastest shortcuts for those tasks. Step two is to develop a simple memorization technique (e.g., using Post-It notes) so you can commit the critical shortcuts to memory. Step three is committing yourself to learning your shortcuts — say, one or two per week. This is a simple approach that will get you moving in the right direction quickly. I wrote a brief report on this that’s included in my Excel Shortcut System. Even more importantly, I’ve created the exclusive Excel Shortcut Wizard, which is an Excel database of the shortcuts covered in the Excel Shortcut Strategies book. The Wizard allows you to score and rank shortcuts to create your own personalized priority list of shortcuts that you can then set about memorizing and using. By combining the memorization techniques with the Wizard, you’ll have a straight and simple path to becoming a shortcut wizard yourself.
Myth #4: Excel shortcuts are only for advanced users who already know everything else there is to know about Excel
Totally false. Excel shortcuts are for everyone — from beginners through advanced users. Consider Excel shortcuts to be like Excel features: you learn the easy ones as a beginner, and the more advanced ones as you go on. For example, Ctrl+S for Save is a shortcut everyone should use — including beginners — from day one. But Alt+F+D+A for “Save and Send” or doing a Paste Special by using RC-S-S-V-D-<OK> after copying a blank cell to convert text-formatted numbers to actual numbers (RC stands for Right Click) might be something only more advanced users find useful.
Now go forth and conquer
I hope this brief post removes some of the evil myths floating around about Excel shortcuts. They’re easy to learn, they don’t require you to give up your mouse, and they’re for everyone (beginners through advanced users). If you have any other myths, please post them here. Don’t be intimidated by misinformation! Learn shortcuts now to advance your career — don’t procrastinate, and don’t engage in any bloodletting.