⁂ George Ho

Use Your Computer Faster By Reading Less

Suppose you want your computer to take some action (whether it’s showing you information about something, navigating to a particular file, etc.). You’re not reading through a menu and thinking through what to do: you already know what you want to do, and you just have to execute.

In these instances, the slowest thing you could possibly do is read.1 The more you can make your computer do what you want with your eyes literally closed, the faster and more efficient you will be at the computer.2

Coding Environment

I spend a lot of my time writing code, and I experienced a real step change in my programming quality of life once I configured my coding environment to be able to do all of the below without looking at the screen. (For those unlucky enough to code in Vim, I’ve briefly outlined my setup.)

Search, Don’t Skim

I generally try to avoid skimming webpages and documents (which is basically light reading), and instead search for what I’m looking for.

For example, I recently had the XGBoost Python API documentation open. It is long and tortuous, and I only want to know the name of the argument that controls the sample weight (which corrects for label class imbalance).

I could scroll and skim for XGBClassifier, and then skim each of the several dozen arguments to find it… or I could simply search for it directly. I searched for weight, saw several hundred search hits and realized that was too vague a term (it could also refer to the weights of the XGBoost model itself). I then tried reweight and got no hits, so I tried balanc (I don’t search the final e because that would exclude conjugations like balancing), and found what I was looking for: the first search hit was next to the argument scale_pos_weight. A bit of scrolling around to double check, and I was done.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Outside of coding, I interact with a lot of other applications every day, almost all of which have keyboard shortcuts.

Anecdotally, I know many people get turned off from learning keyboard shortcuts, because there are just so many of them. I would start small: learning two or three keyboard shortcuts per application will probably cover 90% of your use cases. I’ll just go over the ones I use most frequently.

Google Chrome:

Here are a ton more Chrome and Firefox shortcuts.


Here are a ton more Slack keyboard shortcuts.


Here are a ton more Outlook and ProtonMail keyboard shortcuts.

  1. The particular phrasing of this idea is from Gary Bernhardt’s Destroy All Software screencasts, which I can’t recommend highly enough. ↩︎

  2. As an aside, this is also true with crosswords! Crossword speed solvers know that the slowest thing you can do is read clues, so the trick is to solve only the down clues while reading the across entries as they solve to make sure that they still form valid words or phrases. In this way, they can cut down on around half of the time they would have normally spent reading the across clues. ↩︎