Need a New Year’s Resolution? Commit to Learning Keyboard Shortcuts to Save Yourself 64 Hours This Year

January 7, 2022

By Kristen S. Jerome, CPA
Partner, Bauknight Pietras & Stormer

I’m a CPA in public practice, surrounded by other CPAs.  I’m a bona fide nerd: Exhibit A) One of my earliest professional accomplishments was mastering the 10-key. I recall a happy hour in my early twenties bragging to my non non-CPA friends about it. Why did they hang out with me? Exhibit B) My husband helped coach his school’s football team. He asked me to take a look at the game stats excel workbook. I tricked it out with formulas, tables, and analysis. I’ve never felt more popular.

I could go on, but I assume you get the point. If there’s anything we CPAs love more than a good excel function, it’s a keyboard shortcut. It’s our favorite kind of party trick. Hovering over an associate’s desk, watching them painstaking page down to the end of the 36,000-row data set: “hey Dave try Ctrl Shift down arrow.” BOOM.  “Dave, Ctrl F6” to take us to the other excel pane.” MIND BLOWN EMOJI.  “Now let’s select the data, make it a table, and add a pretty border – Ctrl Home, Ctrl Shift down over, Ctrl T, Ctrl Shift &.” MIC DROP.

Now let’s address your objections:

  1. It takes longer to learn shortcuts than it saves to know them.

Brainscape[1] estimates the most people lose an average of 2 seconds per minute of work by switching back and forth from their mouse to keyboard, rather than employing keyboard shortcuts.  For the typical 2080 hour per year worker, that’s 64 hours wasted per year:

[2 wasted seconds / min] * [480 min / workday] * [240 workdays / year] = 64 wasted hours

3.3% of your time.  What a shame.

  1. I like my mouse.

I like my mouse too.  Did you know mouse speed is measured in “mickeys”?  This is not a joke.  Bank that for trivia night.  Anyway, Repetitive Syndrome Injury (“RSI”) is caused by doing repetitive tasks.  You are more likely to develop an RSI (like carpel tunnel or tendonitis) in your mouse hand than your keyboard hand[2].  It’s called dorsiflexion, which is when the heel of your palm rests on the desk while your fingers are raised on the mouse.  Alternating mousing and keyboarding can reduce your risk of RSI.  Please note that I’m not suggesting you throw away your mouse.  I’m suggesting you only use it when it’s most efficient to do so.  Using both the keyboard and the mouse at the EXACT SAME TIME can rocket power your speed through internet research and certain other tasks.

  1. It’s clunky.

Only at first!  Once you have mastered a set of keyboard shortcuts, your precision in completing tasks (editing text, formatting slides, browsing the internet).

Like a second language, keyboard shortcuts take time to learn.  I recommend one of three methods:

Cold turkey

Take the batteries out of your mouse. I know I said I wouldn’t suggest throwing away your mouse, but sometimes you have to sink or swim!


Hold down ALT and TAB and arrow over to your internet browser;
Ctrl T to open a new window;
Type “Best keyboard shortcuts for (insert your profession here);”
Pick one shortcut to master this week.
Repeat next week.

Heavy training wheels

There’s an app for that. Some apps are like that typing game you played in grade school. Others linger in the background while you work and pop up with a suggested shortcut when you’re reaching for your mouse. Some apps analyze your most frequently used mouse clicks and recommend the most valuable keyboard shortcuts for you to focus on.

I am not here to tell you which shortcuts you should be focusing on. That depends heavily on what operating system you use, what programs you use, and the nature of your work. A ton of commands include Ctrl and Alt in combination with other keys. Ctrl (Control) and Alt (Alternate) were originally used as modifier keys on teletypewriters and early keyboards. These were non-printed characters that allowed the operator to perform certain operations (like eject a printed page or ring a terminal bell!). These keys became obsolete as the interpretation of keypresses was appropriated by software. Eventually, software applications re-appropriated the modifier keys for their own purposes. This is why keyboard commands that work in Microsoft Excel may not work in Google Sheets or on a Mac.

There is no shortage of articles, blogs and vlogs decoding the secrets of each program’s keyboard shortcuts or hot keys!  Commit to learning a new one this week.  As John Mayer might say: your keyboard is a wonderland!





About Bauknight Pietras & Stormer, P.A. (BPS)

Established in 1991, BPS is among the Southeast’s premier accounting and consulting firms and among the largest locally owned public accounting firms in South Carolina with 50 Certified Public Accountants and 30+ professional staff. BPS is a strategic partner to clients in the insurance, construction and real estate, employee benefits, hospitality, manufacturing and distribution, professional services, telecommunications, and technology industries. BPS is a member of Prime Global, an association of private accounting firms, and was recognized as one of America’s 50 Best of the Best Firms in 2020 by INSIDE Public Accounting, the top tax advisory firm in the U.S. by Captive Review, and in 2019 was recognized by Forbes as among the top recommended tax and accounting firms in America. Learn more at