Be Efficient with your Time – Learn to Use Shortcut Keys

If you work in any type of professional setting or really any setting in the world except under a rock, using a computer is a requirement or will be one shortly. It is time to admit it and start becoming better at using one.

The skill level that got you to the point where you are now is not going to be good enough. Becoming more efficient is a necessity if you want to remain competitive.

One method available to make your life on the computer easier is to learn the commonly available shortcut keys or hot keys to every program you commonly use.

I recommend you read through the list I’ve provided down below and find the hot keys you could use. Print out a list of the all the hot keys and post it somewhere you can see. Next time you are performing an action that could use a hot key, stop and look at which keys you need to push to do the same action. The first couple times you do this it will be cumbersome and slower and feel like a step backwards, but remember your current skills are not good enough for tomorrow. Embrace change and soon you will be shaving seconds off every action you perform on the computer. I know it seems small, but as I’ve shown before little details can add up over time to become life changing amounts.

Windows Keyboard Hot Keys Via Wikipedia

Microsoft Excel Hot Keys Via

Microsoft Word Hot Key Via

Microsoft Outlook Hot Keys Via

Understand Your Next Best Alternative when Negotiating

When talking about negotiating I want to stress that keeping the big picture in mind is very important. It is easy to get caught up in a highly emotional situation and lose sight of what is really important.

One way to avoid losing sight of the big picture is to understand what your Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement (BANTA) is. If the negotiation you are currently engaged in does not work out what will you be left with? The answer to this question will generally inform how large of a range the two parties will negotiate over.


It is important to understand what your counterpart has for a best alternative to a negotiated agreement. If one party has a very strong BATNA they will be unlikely to compromise during the negotiation, whereas if a party has a terrible BATNA they will be strongly incentivized to compromise and work out a deal.


In any situation there is always room for improvement. The same goes for negotiating. You should always be on the lookout for ways you can improve your own position.

For example, if you are trying to sell someone your used car for $3,000 dollars you would start with a BATNA not selling and holding onto your car. This is a pretty bad BATNA when you want or need to sell your car. Through the process of trying to sell your car, you find out a friend of your relative would like to buy the car, but they are hoping for the reduced price of $2,500. This doesn’t sound as bad as the previous BATNA, but you were trying to do better. This this case your BATNA has improved from 0 to $2,500. A week later you get a phone call from someone who would like to come look at the car. When they come to look at the car you already know you won’t take anything less than $2,500 because you have an alternative.

From the perspective of the person coming over to look at the car they would also want to improve their BATNA by finding other cars that will satisfy their needs. Now if they come over and tell you they absolutely must have a car by tonight to drive to their job in the morning or else they are going to get fired and this is the only car they’ve looked at. Well then you can be pretty sure that they are going to pay the full $3,000 price tag. It isn’t always in your best interest to reveal your BATNA.

Title Image Credit: Pat Mouhan via

Measure Efficiency with Time – A Review of Manic Time

Do you waste time on your computer? My guess is you do. If you are like 66% of Americans, you waste time on your computer and wish you didn’t waste as much. I’m pretty sure you other 34% don’t have a computer or maybe waste time on a tablet or mobile device. When it comes to being efficient, losing track of time is a serious problem.

It is important to measure how efficient you are currently being with your time. When it comes to the time on the computer, Manic Time can help you with your time efficiency measurement needs. Manic Time automatically tracks which program on your computer is currently the active window, and every 5 seconds logs the current active window. The log should give you a fairly accurate idea of which windows and tabs you use. The program automatically stops recording data when the computer is not active.

The free version of Manic Time has all the features that an average person would use to track their computer usage time. The paid version mostly adds features that businesses would use for billing purposes.

Manic Time allows you to tag individual programs, tabs, or files under certain categories such as “productive,”  “fun,” or whatever you come up with.  Word documents might be classified as “productive” and Excel files classified as “fun” (I can’t help it… the engineer in me loves Excel).  Reddit or Facebook might be classified as “unproductive.” You can classify any program as productive or unproductive as it fits you.

Manic Time also has an array of options to help you visually understand and analyze where your time is going.  Here are a few screenshots of the data Manic Time can generate.

Manic Time Screen Shot

Manic Time Screen Shot2


Finally I want to say there is nothing wrong with decompressing and wasting time on the computer, but this tool can help you be aware of that time.

I did not receive any form of compensation for this review. It is just my honest opinion. If you have another time tracking software that you think I’m missing out on let me know I’d love to check it out.

Negotiate with People who can Negotiate

Today’s tip on negotiating is one we all learned at a very young age.  Only negotiate with someone who has the authority to give you what you want. We learned this when we were children asking our parents for something.

In the real world this negotiating technique shows up in a slightly different manner. You are sitting at the car dealership with the car salesman and you are going back and forth about which options are in or out and what the final price will be and how much you will get for your trade in. You finally come to an agreement and the salesman says “Great! Let me just run this by my boss real quick and we’ll get you out the door”. He comes back a good time later with a glum look on his face and breaks the news to you that the price he gave you was too good and his boss won’t allow it. Then the salesman will say something like this “but if you can just raise your offer a little bit I’m sure I can talk the boss into this deal.”

This is where if you don’t remain alert you are going to get burned. This dealership is trying to manipulate you.

You aren’t negotiating with the person who can give you what you want.

How to deal with this problem

  1. Validate

Before you start any negotiation always learn about the other party. This goes back to being a good communicator. A basic question you should always ask is, “do you have the authority to make an agreement with me or do you need further approval.” You probably don’t want to negotiate with someone who can’t make an agreement. Try to deal directly with the person who can make the deal happen.

  1. Fight Fire with Fire

Try using the “I need to ask my boss or the one with authority” in reverse sometime, it is rather funny to see. Negotiate your heart out on the car of your dreams and when the salesman asks you to sign on the dotted line tell him you first have to run it by your significant other, who isn’t there at the moment. Later that month you can call the salesman back and say your significant other was not happy with the price and won’t be letting you get the car at that price, but if you could just drop it down a few hundred dollars you think you could talk them into it.

In my professional career when negotiating with contractors for the mine it is standard practice to validate that the other party has the authority to make a final decision. I wanted to share with you the best response I have heard to the validate question, which I have brazenly taken as my own standard response. When asked if you are able to authorize an agreement always say that you are authorized up to a certain amount. This incentivizes the other party to give concessions in hopes of having you not escalate the issue and also gives you the option to escalate if needed. The next contractor I hear use this exact line I’m going to buy a box of doughnuts for because I figure hey if I can’t win the negotiation I might as well try to bribe them.

Do you have an experience negotiating with someone who wasn’t able to negotiation? How did you feel?

I wanted to end with a quick reminder that negotiating should focus on creating a win for everyone. Work to make the pie bigger for everyone. You will always make more money making a bigger pie than you will by getting a bigger piece of the small pie. With that said I still find it helpful to have the tools necessary to acquire a bigger piece of the pie even when the pie isn’t going to get any bigger.

Negotiating Strategy and Tactics – Anchoring

Yesterday I started talking about negotiation as a skill to develop to lead a more efficient life.

Have you ever been in a negotiation where you made an offer and the other party immediately accepted your offer and left you feeling like you offer way too much?

Today I’m going to talk about the strategies and tactics I use when negotiating to help avoid that feeling like you could have done better. Be aware of the strategies and tactics available for you to use in a negotiation makes seeing through them easier.

The first strategy is anchoring. Anchoring is the idea that people are attached to the first number they hear or see. Retailers everywhere use anchoring to make you think you are getting a better deal than you really are. Look at this watch below. Do you really think anyone ever paid $695 dollars for it. No, but it makes you think at $59.99 it is a pretty good deal.

Watch anchor

Tactics for using anchoring

When you should give out the first number

If you have a solid understanding of the value of an item or service and there is a well-defined market you should eagerly try to provide the first number in the negotiation. Of course, your number should be slightly higher than you expect to get, but should be a reasonable number. You are trying to anchor the other party to this value in their head.

When you shouldn’t give out the first number

If you are negotiating over something that doesn’t have a well-defined value or market, you should avoid making the first offer because you may inadvertently give away a large portion of the negotiating range without realizing it. If you have done this, a poor negotiator will immediately accept your offer leaving you with that feeling like you could have done better. An experience negotiator will immediately recalibrate their expectations and bargain with you further, you’ll never know you gave away a bunch of value. Next time you are negotiating and hear someone accept your offer a little too quick take that as opportunity to learn that you likely left money on the table during that negotiation.

How you should react after hearing an offer

You’ve managed to avoid giving the first number and now you’ve just heard what the other party’s offer will be. It is a better offer than you could have imaged and you want to jump up and down and accept it immediately. DON’T! Everyone will feel better about the negotiation if you act interested but not impressed. Use this time as an opportunity to learn more about the other party and how they arrived at that number. Once you’ve learned more about the offer if you find it is truly remarkable go ahead and accept it otherwise feel free to politely counter it with and offer of your own. If you do chose to the counter the offer you should expect that the final number will end up being split between their initial offer and your initial counter offer.

What are your experiences with making the first offer or not making the first offer? Let me hear your story below.