Increase your ROI – Return on Input

Life is short and most of us spend a good deal of it getting data into or out of our computers and devices. Why not invest a bit of time and/or money into increasing your effectiveness at using keyboard, mouse, touch, and voice?

My guess is that you are like me and that you use multiple devices (desktop, laptop, tablet, and phone) in multiple contexts (work, home, car, and away from home). In this post I give you some suggestions on how to do that more effectively.

Small Investments

Small investments yield small results but over time can create an incredible snowball effect. Take one, learn it, use it, and move on to another.


Computer. Learn a keyboard shortcut. Most of the time keyboard shortcuts are the fastest way to do anything. I heard a story that productivity expert David Allen once spent 45 minutes learning the keyboard shortcuts to a new program before he began to use it. If you don’t know where to begin, use CTRL+N. In most any program, holding down the CTRL (Command on Mac) key and tapping N will give you something “new” (document, email, invoice, etc.). If you want a big list, check out 47 Killer Shortcuts for Legal Professionals.

Tablet. Try the split keyboard. Especially when using a tablet in landscape orientation, split keyboards work well. On an iPad, with the keyboard on screen, pull the keyboard apart by putting your thumbs in the middle of the keyboard and then moving them out to the sides. Once the keyboard is split it makes it easy to type with your thumbs.


Make a habit of right-clicking. When I teach Excel classes, I say “right-clicking is the key to life”. In most cases, right-clicking brings up a shortcut menu that gives you options for the task you are doing. Many times you will discover things that make your workflow more efficient.

Right-click and drag. This one may take a bit of getting used to but the benefits can be significant. For example, in Outlook (desktop version), right click and drag the email to the date of an appointment. Then Select Copy Here as Appointment with Attachment. This will copy the entire email into an appointment.

Shortcuts: double-click to select a word and triple-click to select a paragraph.


Just starting using it!

Android Phones. Just say “Ok Google” and then a command. Some of my favorites are “Navigate to” and “Send Text to”. The other day, while driving I sent a text to my daughter totally hands free. It helps if you have a Bluetooth speaker phone. I use the  Jabra Freeway. For a list of commands see Use your voice on Android.

iPads and iPhone. To activate Siri, hold down the Home key for a few seconds. To get a better idea of what you can do see Your wish is its its command.


For most of us this is just for phones and tablets but as time goes on more and more laptops and even desktops will be touch enabled.

My encouragement in this area would be simply to experiment. What can you do? You can tap. Obviously this is just a tap with your finger like a click with the mouse. Then you can long tap. So, in this case, you tap and hold for a bit. In addition, you can swipe from the left, right, down, or up. If you are in an app or on the home screen, just try the various actions and see what you can discover!

iPad. Swipe up from the bottom bezel to show the Control Center that includes audio playback, brightness controls, and the camera.

Android phones (some but not all). From the Home screen swipe left to see Google Now cards.

Big Investments


Android (and will be available with the next version of iOS). Learn how to use a “swipe” keyboard. Google’s stock keyboard has this build in but the king of this idea is SwiftKey. The idea is that instead of tapping individual letters you glide from one letter to another. If you want to see it in action take a look at Introducing SwiftKey Flow.

Back when I was in love with my Blackberry (and its physical keyboard) this is the feature that was the tipping point for switching to an Android phone. Once you get used to it, you will be surprised on how much faster you can go.

Computer. Go professional grade. If you want to go all in on the fastest possible input, this is the path. A couple of years back an attorney I worked with spent about 20 minutes telling me how great this worked for him. Get the right software: Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Get the right mic: the ones that he recommended are made by Phillips. One example is Philips LFH3210 SpeechMike. Invest the time to learn how to use it. Oh course, an alternative is to simply dictate and have someone transcribe it like my friends over at LegalTypist.

One Last Investment

We live in a world where we don’t truly multi-task but we do jump from one application to another. Make sure you know how to quickly switch between apps. Often times this is called the Task Switcher. It allows you to see your most recent apps and quickly switch between them.

Windows. ALT+TAB.

Mac. Command+TAB

iOS. Double tap the Home key.

Android. Tap the app switcher button (the double rectangles).

Give it a try! Make your life easier and get more done by increasing your ROI.

Question: What was the one tip you found most helpful? What is one tip you would like to add? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


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