Habits and Shortcuts

My Dad, a big old gruff softie farmer from central Alberta hates (is terribly afraid of) mice. Squeeks like one when he sees them indoors, the sweetheart. I dislike the mouse that is attached to my computer when I have to take my hands off of the keyboard to use it to engage functions in software. This personality quirk is so well known in my firm that people will send me keyboard shortcuts, bless them.

Josette McEachern, Field Law’s Library Manager sent me this MS Excel tip today:

To insert a row Cntrl Shft =
To delete a row Cntrl –

In Making Sense of Change Management: A Complete Guide to the Models Tools and Techniques of Organizational Change by Esther Cameron and Mike Green (Kogan Page Publishers, 2012 via Google Books) at page 61 the authors mention Edgar Schein’s three stages of change:

  1. unfreezing: creating the motivation to change;
  2. learning new concepts and new meanings from old concepts;
  3. internalizing new concepts and meanings

During the initial unfreezing stage people need to unlearn certain things before they can focus fully on new learning.

I am highly motivated to use the keyboard shortcuts shared by my colleague when manipulating lengthy Excel worksheets – something I regularly do. First I will have to unlearn reaching for my mouse and right clicking to insert or delete a row. I know, based on prior keyboard shortcut use, that I can produce work faster if I keep my mitts on the keyboard. I understand the concept of inserting and deleting rows and how that will impact my work. Still, it will be hard to internalize the process change of using Cntrl plus minus sign to delete rows ni Excel.

Why is it hard? Unlearning an existing process requires us to discard our old, comfortable, habits, dismantle and discard our obsolete or misleading knowledge.

My example of adopting a new keyboard shortcut is a small thing, but extrapolate that idea. What are you doing today that you know is inefficient? What do you need to unlearn in order to break your habit of doing “it” “that way”? Cntrl Shift =


  1. Josette McEachern

    I have to admit, at first it was a pain having to search for and memorize short-cut keystrokes but it really does make the work faster and more efficient!