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Achieve Faster Flow States: Swap your iPad for a Notepad

Achieve Faster Flow States: Swap your iPad for a Notepad


    Modern technology really is a wonderful thing. It gives us all manner of affordable gizmos and gadgets to help us manage every element of our lives and get more stuff done.

    Yet when it comes to getting more stuff done effectively and to the best standard possible, there’s one set of tools we often over-look; the humble pen and paper.

    In praise of paper

    It goes without saying that paper is much cheaper, doesn’t suffer too much damage should you drop it on the concrete and doesn’t require batteries or chargers, but they present less obvious advantages too:

    Sure, technology provides us with lots of useful, productive tools, but it also provides e-mail, social networks, oh-so-hilarious videos of piano-playing felines and a host of other distractions that otherwise keep us from creating our best work.

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    The only thing a notepad ever gave us was a blank canvas on which to store thoughts, make notes and create masterpieces.

    Distraction free

    This very article began life as a basic idea scrawled in a pocket-sized notebook en route home from dinner one evening before being expanded, tweaked and crafted into two rough drafts on a legal pad back at the dining table.

    Eventually, when all thoughts were nearly organised and I had an article I was happy with, I typed it up and here it sits before you.

    Saving time

    Was that more work than heading straight to the computer and hacking at the keyboard until I had something close to a competent piece?

    Yes and no.

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    Okay, so my drafts took me longer to write than if I’d typed them, fully-formed and almost perfect into a word processor, but the honest truth is that had I been at the computer during first-draft, I would have spent just as much time browsing through blogs, tweeting and generally wasting time on unproductive things as I would actual writing.

    In the long run then, I saved myself some time and found it easier to enter a state where I was completely focussed on producing the best possible work I could.

    “Sometimes I would rather hang upside down in a bucket than write.” – Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

    No matter how much we try to tell ourselves that we’re 100% motivated and productive 100% of the time, we all have those days when, just like Douglas Adams, the last thing in the whole world that we feel like doing is the task at hand.

    No matter how disciplined we may think ourselves, technology offers such an abundance of distractions that it’s sometimes too much to resist temptation and indulge in those distractions.

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    Even when we’re motivated enough to get on with the job, sometimes the very process of working at a computer, nothing more than hitting a buttons and inputting data, can thwart the creative process.

    Because of this, ideas don’t come as freely, and that completely productive state of working takes a little while longer to reach.

    Before we go any further, it’s probably worth pointing out that what you’re reading isn’t the inane ramblings of an out-of-touch old man with a gripe against ‘all this newfangled cyberspace stuff’ just because he doesn’t understand it.

    I adore technology. I adore it because it’s portable, convinient, accessible. I adore it because it lets me work from anywhere in the world, and I adore it for all the many wonderful things I can’t do without it.

    Though the one thing I can’t do with technology, is think, brainstorm and create half as well as I can when faced with a blank sheet of paper.

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    Flow states

    There’s something about that blank canvas, devoid of distractions and ready to be filled with ideas, that enables a faster entry into what psychologists call the Flow state; that feeling of being fully absorbed in your work, completely energized and so focused on the task at hand that nothing can take you from what you’re doing until you’ve achieved what you set out to do.

    You may not call it Flow, you may call it ‘being in the zone’ or use some other term entirely, but the point is that you’re likely to reach that most productive and satisfying state much faster as you feed off the energy created by dragging your pen across a blank sheet of paper than you are simply inputting data into a machine.

    You don’t even have to be doing anything particularly creative either.

    Having experimented with both technology and paper-based products for all areas of my life, including creating to-do lists, planning projects, personal finance work and just about anything that requires me to get stuff out of my head and onto some form of page, I’ve found that the ideas I have come quicker, and are more inspired and defined than I ever had bashing buttons on a keyboard.

    Of course, it would be quite absurd to encourage you to replace your Ipad with a notepad forever more; we wouldn’t be talking right now were it not for technology. Though if you want to create your best work in an environment free from distractions that allows you to quickly and effortlessly reach your Flow state, laying the laptop aside and picking up a sheet of paper may just be what you need.

    (Photo credit: Notebooks via Shutterstock)

    More by this author

    Chris Skoyles

    Writer, coach, and trainee counsellor specialising in mental health and addiction.

    13 Ideas on How to Help Depression That Just Won’t Go Away How Relaxing Music for Kids Can Help ADHD (+ Music Recommendations) 5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly) What Does Anxiety Feel Like? (Types and Symptoms of the Invisible Killer) Anxiety vs Depression: What’s the Difference and How to Deal with Them?

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    Last Updated on August 15, 2018

    25 Most Useful Excel Shortcuts That Very Few People Know

    25 Most Useful Excel Shortcuts That Very Few People Know

    Imagine if you could use 5 simple shortcuts while working in Excel, and increase your productivity without wasting time for searching information in huge tables, writing long formulas, and sorting the data.

    Or even better:

    What if you would get 25 useful shortcuts… and each of them could simplify your work, so you could do much more every day?

    You’d definitely feel excited to read about them.

    Today is your lucky day because we are going to share with you in this article 25 great Excel shortcuts you can use in your work every day! This is your lucky chance, so go ahead and become a real professional in Excel without wasting your time.

    How important are Excel shortcuts for you?

    The most effective thing to check out if people really need something is to release a survey and look at the results. So, according to the anonymous survey, 99% of people said Excel shortcuts are critical or important for them.

    In general, there are more than 200 shortcuts in Excel. But when we have analyzed the data about how many shortcuts people know, we got the next results:

    • 26% of people know 10 or fewer shortcuts;
    • 61% of people know 10-50 shortcuts;
    • 10% of people know 50-100 shortcuts.

    As you can see, not so many people know a lot of shortcuts. Probably, some of them never think about increasing their productivity in such a simple way.

    Of course, it depends on how deep you use Excel. Some people use this powerful application just for making simple tables or graphs, others use it for everyday work to count something.

    Most of the accountants and businessmen use much more Excel functions for more complex tasks such as creating VBA macros, managing PivotTables, recalculating huge workbooks, outlining data, etc.

    But even those people who work with Excel every day very close may know a few shortcuts. Needless to say, they can do their job without shortcuts, but it usually takes for them much more time. T

    his sounds not funny, especially if you must finish a huge amount of work urgently. There is a great opportunity for you to increase your productivity in Excel and do your job faster with our useful shortcuts.

    5 Main reasons to learn excel shortcuts

    Many people don’t understand why they should use shortcuts if they can work without them. Of course, if you use Excel twice per year to make a simple table or a graph, it is probably not so important for you to know many shortcuts.

    But if you work in Excel every day, sorting huge tables and managing with tons of data, then shortcuts will help you to reach the next five goals:

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    1. Work efficiently and faster in Excel
    2. Manage big amounts of data easily and fast
    3. Stay calm and concentrated even while doing a tedious job
    4. Make your work accurately and properly without errors
    5. Get a better understanding of Microsoft Excel

    Who can use Excel shortcuts?

    There are a lot of people who can simplify their life with Excel shortcuts, and here are the groups that will definitely love using them:

    • People who work in banks, finance organizations, etc.
    • Businessmen who make tons of various reports and presentations in Excel for meetings and briefings.
    • Students who usually are lazy and impatient to make their homework because they don’t want to waste a lot of time working in Excel.
    • Private entrepreneurs who keep various data in Excel tables.

    Whether you are a student who hates Excel because it seems a time-wasting and boring application, or you are an accountant who must recalculate huge worksheets every day without making errors, we recommend reading and learning these Excel shortcuts to make your work simpler and save some time.

    With these simple but useful tricks, it is so easy to finish your job and get more time for yourself.

    25 Excel shortcuts to increase your productivity

    Here are 25 great Excel shortcuts you should learn and use for work or studying to make your job faster and simpler. Try to use them all and you will realize you were totally blind before while working in Excel:

    1. Format whatever object fast with Ctrl+1

    If you select any object in Excel – a cell, a chart, a chart axis, a drawing object – then press Ctrl+1, and you will get the Properties dialog for the certain object. This shortcut offers a very quick and easy way to format whatever object you’re working with.

    2. Use range names with Ctrol+G or F5 key

    If you use range names (which we strongly recommend to do) and you want to choose the range with a specific name references, press either Ctrl+G or the F5 key, which launches the GoTo dialog.

    If the name is simple, you can click on it in a list in that dialog. But if it’s at all unusual, Excel won’t list it; so you will need to type in the name. Then press OK.

    3. Use a range name in a formula with =sum( and F3

    Suppose you want to use a range name in a formula. For example, you want to sum the Sales range. Enter…

    =sum(

    …and then press F3.

    When you do so, Excel launches the Paste Name dialog. Just choose “Sales” from the list, press the OK button in the dialog, then enter the SUM function’s closing “)” to complete the formula.

    4. Launch Function Arguments dialog easily with Ctrl+A

    Suppose you want to check the help topic for a worksheet function. For example, you want to read about the MATCH function. In a cell, type…

    =match(

    …and then press Ctrl+A, or click the Insert Function (“fx“) button to the left of the formula bar.

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    When you do so, Excel displays the Function Arguments dialog, which might offer all the help you need.

    But if you still want to see the complete help topic, click the blue “Help on this function” hyperlink in the lower-left corner of the dialog. This technique works with all documented Excel functions.

    5. Copy stuff down the column without scrolling with Ctrl+D

    If you added a formula in a new column on the right of a huge dataset, and you want to copy that formula down without scrolling, do these steps:

    • go to the right to the column that has data (the column to the left of the new column with the formula);
    • press Ctrl+Down – to get to bottom;
    • move one cell to the right (with arrow key naturally);
    • press Ctrl+Shift+Up to select the new column, at the top of which is the formula you just created;
    • press Ctrl+D to fill down the formula.

    6. Quick access to any function with Alt+

    By customizing the quick access toolbar, you can create simple shortcuts to commands that you would otherwise have to find in the Ribbon tabs, or macros you have created yourself.

    The keyboard shortcut is simply selecting Alt+ (the number of the command you wish to select).

    For example, if you have customized your quick access toolbar to have Calc Sheet, Save, Open. To calculate sheet you would hit Alt+1, for save Alt+2, and for open Alt+3.

    A lot of people are unaware of this useful function, and it’s a great time saver.

    7. Format cells with Ctrl+1

    When you need to format cells, use Ctrl+1. Most people know this as the shortcut for the Format Cells dialog, but you can also use it to format almost anything in Excel, without a care about the state of the ribbon. Try this amazing and simple shortcut!

    8. Choose visible cells with Alt+

    When you need to choose visible cells only – use Alt+. This is the trick to copy only what you see. It is a priceless shortcut when you’re manually hiding rows and columns in the table.

    9. Use filtering

    Filtering – it is a powerful way to slice, dice, and sort through a huge table of information.

    It’s amazingly effective when you’re participating in a meeting to discuss something like a sales forecast, and everyone is looking in real-time at your spreadsheet projected on a screen (or on their monitors).

    To some people, you will be seen as the God of Spreadsheets, and this is not a joke!

    10. Insert or delete column/row easily with the Ctrl key

    Some people waste a lot of time even for simple operations, for example, when they need to insert/delete columns and rows in Excel.

    Use this shortcut to insert: with an entire row or column selected, use Ctrl+Shift ++.

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    To delete: with an entire row or column selected, use Ctrl + –.

    11. See formula results with F9

    If you want to check formula results within multiple formulas, highlight the formula and select F9 to see formula result.

    Don’t forget to undo before exiting the formula.

    12. Use ALT+Enter for more text within a cell

    If you want to add a second line of text within a cell, use ALT+Enter.

    13. Use EDATE to move a date on by a full calendar month:

    Here’s how to use EDATE:

    =EDATE(15/01/16,+1) = 15/02/2016 (15th Feb 2016)

    =EDATE (15/01/2016,-2) = 15/11/2015 (15th Nov 2016)

    14. Use EOMONTH to move a date onto the end of the month:

    Here’s how to use EMONTH:

    =EOMONTH(15/01/2016,0) = 31/01/2016 (31st Jan 2106)

    =EOMONTH (15/01/2016,-2) = 30/11/2015 (30th Nov 2015)

    15. Remove spaces with TRIM

    TRIM is a useful function known by few people. It removes any spaces at the beginning of a value. This is useful if you are pulling in values from somewhere else.

    16. Repeat commands with F4 or Ctrl+Y

    In many cases, you may need to repeat your last action. Use F4 or Ctrl+Y; you can repeat many commands like applying the same borders, format, or insert a worksheet again.

    17. Quick access to cells with the Ctrl key and Shift key

    When you need to go to the first or last cell of a worksheet, no matter where you are, use Ctrl+Home, Ctrl+End combinations.

    And here is a pleasant bonus for you: add the Shift key to select everything on the way!

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    18. Use Ctrl+ to create a timestamp

    If you need a date stamp and/or a timestamp in your document, there is no need to type a date and time! Use shortcuts Ctrl+ ; (date) Ctrl+Shift+ : (time). It works like a magic and helps to save your time and nerves.

    19. Use autosum shortcut for sum function anywhere

    Autosum shortcut – use Alt =. It is a “magic” shortcut of Excel to automatically insert a sum function.

    You can use this shortcut to sum rows, columns, or even an entire table in one step without wasting your time.

    20. Use data validation

    This is an amazing but underutilized tool in Excel, which can be used for a variety of things:

    • Create dependent drop-down lists;
    • Create drop-down lists;
    • Protect/restrict data input of specific cells (without the need for VBA macros).

    21. Use conditional formatting

    It can be used for various purposes such as color format or cell format of cells, rows or columns based on dependent cell values or formats.

    22. Use formula auditing

    This is a great tool to analyze and trace precedent or dependent cells, check errors and evaluate formulas.

    The “Watch Window” is a feature to keep a snapshot of an area of the spreadsheet, and then move to another area of the workbook – particularly valuable if you’re managing large spreadsheets or don’t have a second screen.

    23. Use Scenario Manager to generate summary outputs of a spreadsheet

    Scenario Manager (under “What-if Analysis”) enables users to generate high-level, summary outputs of a spreadsheet – without the need to replicate the entire workbook.

    It will present multiple scenarios of a spreadsheet in a succinct, high-level summary worksheet.

    24. Use INDIRECT to set up large tables

    INDIRECT makes it easy to set up tables which reference larger tables without a lot of referencing work or cutting and pasting; especially for dynamic spreadsheets.

    25. Use OFFSET for complicated calculations or formulas

    OFFSET can be useful for things like calculating YTD numbers or creating formulas that take data in rows and using in columns.

    The bottom line

    As you can see, when you have a boring or tedious job to do, the best way to do it fast is not looking for a way how to avoid it, but searching for the shortest variant to do it!

    That is why we suggest keeping in mind these Excel shortcuts that will help you to save a lot of time and nerves.

    If it seems hard for you to remember all them, you can print out the list of shortcuts and keep it on your worktable. Use it to search for some help when you need it, and over time, you’ll remember all shortcuts easily.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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