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We’re almost at the finish line of the Automation Challenge. Today is day four and if you haven’t completed the previous days yet, be sure to do that first:

Automation Challenge – Day 1
Automation Challenge – Day 2
Automation Challenge – Day 3

As you have noticed, we’re making you watch the same video during this challenge. Some of you have already watched the whole video but most people haven’t. We do this intentionally to ensure that you’re not only watching the video…but also taking action in small increments! As you implement things from the video, you will see and feel the power of automation. We hope that it will inspire you to automate even more things.

Now on to today’s challenge. If you’ve been following Asian Efficiency for a while, you know we’re big fans of keyboard shortcuts. They can save you so much time and you only need to know 1-2 keystrokes for each app you use daily to see tremendous benefits.

Today we’re going to take it a step further. On Windows and Mac, you can create custom keyboard shortcuts to execute different things. Part of today’s challenge is to create your own custom keyboard shortcut.

For example, one of my personal favorite shortcuts on my Mac is SHIFT+CONTROL+COMMAND+P which will export the current document into a PDF file. I probably use it 2-3 times a day and I set this up back in 2013. Six years later I’m still using it and has saved me a lot of time.


Now we challenge you to create your own custom keyboard shortcut. Watch the (same) video below to learn how to do that.

Mac users: start at [10:46] (Mac – App Shortcuts)
Windows users: start at [18:07] (Win – App Shortcuts)

Challenge for Mac users:

  1. Create a custom keyboard shortcut for an app you use daily.
    Think of anything you do with your mouse and how you can automate that with a keyboard shortcut. A couple of examples we have:
    MindNode: Export to PDF
    OmniFocus: Move Old Data to Archive…
    Evernote: Share Note
    You just need one keyboard shortcut.
  2. Comment below that you did it!

Challenge for Windows users:

  1. Create a custom keyboard shortcut for an app you use daily to launch it, i.e. Chrome, Outlook or Evernote.
  2. Comment below that you did it!

To clarify: you can pick any keyboard shortcut for any app you use. You don’t have to limit yourself to what you see in the video or what we suggest. It’s why we call it Personal Automation – it’s personal to you.

If you use both operating systems, just pick one. You’re almost done with the challenge. Today was one of the more challenging ones so if you made it this far, congratulate yourself! You’re becoming an automation wizard.

Come back tomorrow for the final challenge!

Update: Day 5 is now live.

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Last Updated: December 14, 2020

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  1. This is great! Added shortcut in Things3 to create Repeating To-Do’s. And poof – the shortcut shows up in the menu bar and in the CheatSheet page.

  2. This is great! Added shortcut in Things3 to create Repeating To-Do’s. And poof – the shortcut shows up in the menu bar and in the CheatSheet page.

  3. Did it. This one was interesting. I did it for an app I use just in the morning for security cameras and I did one for word. I think the security cameras usually are used in the morning that I may have it pop up automatically from now on with the task scheduler. I also have started trying to learn other keyboard shortcuts for outlook, chrome, google sheets – etc. Goal is to try to learn one a week.

  4. Done! This is a really useful tip, I think I’ll have to add shortcuts slowly though so I can get used to using them and not forget which shortcut goes with which action. haha

  5. Really handy feature. Along the way, I found a couple items that already had shortcuts available and I didn’t even know it!

  6. I added keyboard shortcuts for some Things actions I do a fair amount that didn’t already have a keyboard shortcut. Feels meta, creating a keyboard shortcut for more productivity in my productivity app.

  7. I made shortcuts for my most common apps. I am an avid shortcut user in Microsoft for copy, paste, select, and new but I’m super excited to dig into this more and add more shortcuts to my routine usage.

  8. Great tip. I used this to create a short cut to open outlook since this is the first place I go everytime i turn on my computer and also for chrome and google drive since I use that nearly every time I sit down. Thank you! LOoking forward to learning more.

  9. I’m unable to complete the challenge as I’m still using macOS Sierra. Hadn’t even realized there had been an update and now there’s another one due in a couple of weeks. Pity.

  10. Made a shortcut to launch Chrome using the method described for Windows users this video… and then I went a few steps further to create some shortcuts for trigger various functions within Chrome too.

    I know that challenge was issued to Mac users, but having those specific commands on hand seems more useful than just a global call to the browser, so I went ahead and tried my hand at it. Granted, it’s not as easy on Windows since there isn’t an equivalent OS preference pane to enter menu items by name and configure custom shortcuts, but since most browsers are platform agnostic I figured using external tools like extensions should yield the same or similar enough results on Windows (or Linux, MacOS… anywhere, really).


    So now, I can make a global call from anywhere on my Windows machine by mashing together the modifier keys CTRL + SHIFT + ALT and then a C to command a new instance of Chrome to start.

    Once the browser window opens, I can hit CTRL + T to open new tabs. This isn’t a custom config, Chrome natively offers this shortcut.


    However, using two extensions (both named Pin Tab) I have also added the keyboard combos ALT + P as well as ALT + SHIFT + P to pin and un-pin my tabs in various ways.

    1. One method simply un-pins tabs to the first index position, as is the default behavior if you did so using a trackpad or mouse pointer.

    2. I added the SHIFT modifier key to the other Pin Tab extension’s shortcut because it has an option in settings to unpin tabs to the last/right-most position in the tab bar. I find both of these approaches useful since I’m usually prioritizing my browser tabs via pinned vs un-pinned as well as left to right orientation anyway.

    3. I also found another extension that can return a un-pin a tab back to it’s prior position (so if you have 10 tabs and you pin the 5th tab then un-pin using this extension it returns that pinned tab back to unpinned index number 5) but this keyboard combo CTRL + UP ARROW is hard-coded and cannot be user-configured – so technically speaking this doesn’t contribute to the terms of the challenge. Still, it was an interesting use case I discovered in my research to complete this challenge and felt it worth mentioning.


    Another keyboard combo I configured via the use of an extension called QuickShift Redux is ALT + SHIFT + LEFT and ALT + SHIFT + RIGHT arrow keys. This allows me to move the currently selected tab along the tab-strip much quicker than clicking and dragging with the mouse pointer, since I often accidentally dislodge tabs by dragging just above or below the vertical threshold of the tab-bar. I still occasionally use the mouse though since Chrome allows you to move multi-selected tabs and this extension supports that functionality as well, so sometimes I’ll CTRL + CLICK individual tabs like tab number 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9, or if there is a whole range of tabs I want to highlight instead it’s quicker to click tab number 5, hold down the SHIFT modifier key, then press tab number 10 so that I’ve selected every tab in between those two as well. But after that selection operation with the mouse I just move my tabs with keyboard now, and with much finer precision too I might add!

  11. I’m constantly resizing images in Preview. I created a keyboard shortcut to open the resize window. Love it.
    My only question is how do you remember all the shortcuts as the list grows?

  12. Sweet! I added a bunch so far.
    Open Chrome, open Gmail, open Publisher, open my synced Google Drive folder, open my Shopify admin site, open (go to) the desktop and finally a shortcut combo to shut the computer down.

    I’ve had to write them all down while I get used to them! :)

  13. I export images from Photoshop with the TinyPing plugin all the time. I create a custom keyboard shortcut for Shift-Command-P for it.

  14. Done, made one for EndNote!
    I also like Ctrl + Shift + T which I discovered when I accidentally closed all my open Chrome browser tabs.

  15. Added a keyboard shortcut to move Omnifocus data to archive. Maybe I’ll remember to use it more often now. I wonder if there is a way to automate moving it with a timer. Hmmm.

  16. I already use Text expander so I have this done for me already, but I started an automation through Automator, I am still working on. It will be awesome.

  17. Done! I added some shortcuts to my outlook at work. CTRL+SHIFT+1 forwards to my omnifocus, CNTRL+SHIFT+2 forwards to Evernote and now CTRL+SHIFT+3 moves the note to my Reply folder where I stick my longer than 2 minute replies!

  18. I tried to put a shortcut to “get classic note link” for linking Evernote stuff to my tasks. Sadly, this is not working, supposedly because in the context menu this option is hidden under the normal note link command.

  19. Did it! (a little late) I actually did this on the first day. CTRL-SHFT-E for Explorer to get my folders! It helps so much!!

  20. I created a shortcut that opens Gmail in my browser. I already had a bookmark for it in my bookmarks bar, but then I always had to open a new Tab first in my browser, and then click on the bookmark. I often forgot to create a new Tab, so I first had to go back to the page I was on, then open a new tab and then click on the Gmail-bookmark. By starting the Gmail-bookmark via a shortcut, I noticed that it automatically opens it on a new Tab in my Chrome browser. Excellent!

  21. I made a shortcut to export a text file from the application TextEdit on the Mac. Very nice indeed. From today I will pay attention if I could use more of these shortcuts.

  22. Combined the “Create PDF” shortcut with Hazel function of renaming and filing away the document in a “REFERENCE LIST” file in Dropbox. And as Thanh said, the time taken to set this up is well worth it as it saves hassle and time many times in the future.

  23. So I did this one, but the story of the day is I spent way too much time tracking down an app that as part of an update added a shortcut which conflicted with a different shortcut

  24. Just the beginning. I have Win 10 at work and although some apps are locked down I was able to create to create a shortcut for my remote access app. Now to plan semantic shortcuts that I don’t forget over vacation

  25. My favorite thing to do with the configurable keyboard shortcuts is to map similar actions to the same shortcut across different apps. I’ve used ⌘⇧L as the “Highlight” shortcut for ages; just added it to PDF Expert.

  26. I’ve been doing this for a long time. Ctrl option cmd O to send to Omnifocus inbox is a classic. I make regular use of short cut keys to fire off Alfred workflows. One of my workflows is ctrl option command W for Web Development. This launches iTerm2, WebStorm, Chrome, Firefox, and opens my Github page in a new browser tab.

  27. Created one for Word and for file explorer. File explorer I would usually just open from the taskbar; however, I often need multiple iterations in order to move files around, and it can be a pain to open more than one quickly.

  28. Done. I start cmder using a shortcut (well, I actually use a macro key) whenever I need to ssh into my home gitlab or my grav server.

  29. Great exercise. Created shortcuts related to MS Outlook and MS OneNote. I needed a combination of Automator and Keyboard shortcuts.

  30. First tried “Save Page As…” in Firefox but that did not work. Done (works!) with “Save Attachments…” in Mail.

  31. Thanks for the challenge! I implemented a simple shortcut on day 3, but day 4 was key: I ORANIZED MY FILES!!!

    thanks, I needed it!

  32. I’ve been doing this for ages and I love it. I used this prompt to finally set one up for Notion, which has completely decimated Evernote for me.

  33. Updated screenshot shortcut to utilize ShareX for better screenshots. Also utilize PhraseExpress which allows for both text expansion and launching of programs.

  34. Done for today. I kept it simple and used the split PDF files since I will definitely use it. I’m racking my brain trying to figure out what else I can use this for, as I know there have been multiple instances of me wishing I could create a shortcut. Oh well, at least I have the resources to create another shortcut when it pops into my head again or I start working on something that will benefit from this.

  35. Done — had to choose first level Share Note from Evernote — not the second level More Sharing > Send an Email…

  36. Shortcuts created to open Firefox browser, calculator, Trello and Snipping tool. It’s a bit slow and when I want to reassign a previously used but now free key combination it doesn’t work anymore…
    But helpful to know how to accelerate opening applications.

  37. I am also thwarted by my IT dept in creating shortcuts, but I had never heard of using the Win+# shortcut to open apps that are pinned on my task bar. Got them rearranged the way I like them and I’ve already started using the short cuts. Thanks!

  38. Done! I’ve set up on my WinPC various keyboard shortcuts:
    Ctrl + Shift + T starts my desktop Toggl application
    Ctrl + Shift + X starts Excel
    Ctrl + Shift + W starts Word
    Ctrl + Shift + S starts the Snippet Tool that I use a lot for screenshots and works very fine with Ctrl + C to copy.
    On the long run seconds saved become hours saved every year!

  39. Nice, done on Windows! I setup the CTRL-Shift-T shortcut to launch my copy of Todoist web version, which I often consult and then close throughout the day.

  40. I’m definitely limited by my lack of Admin controls – but again I’ll do this with my personal mac!
    I set up my log in to include launching Outlook and checking my new emails – this will definitely help me out!

    I can’t believe how much I learned about Mac & Outlook during these sessions! I feel like I knew so little now.

  41. I did one, but couldn’t figure out what I was hoping to do, which is to export a page on the web to pdf. So I created a shortcut to open the print dialog box from the browser instead. If any ideas, let me know! I’m using OS Sierra.

  42. I added a shortcut key to a sharepoint site I use frequently, although I’m not really sure that it’s so much more useful than a shortcut I have to click on. I’ll have to put some more thought into how often I do other tasks where this would be more helpful.

  43. Done!!! This is the one I was most excited for. I regularly use the (Delete…) feature in Excel in which I need to shift cells up, down, etc… and this one will save me a few 100 clicks every 10 weeks or so. I’m am so thankful for the knowledge of this one automation piece itself. All of the others are just a bonus for me. I use the free CheatSheet app (https://mediaatelier.com/CheatSheet/) to regularly search for new to me shortcuts, but learning how to create my own is a game changer!

  44. I “borrowed” your PDF shortcut because I will use it regularly. Now I’m thinking of many others I’ll add. Just need to keep a good list of shortcuts so I can quickly refer to them until they are memorized!

  45. I’ve been doing this in various ways for years. I have two levels:

    (1) Apps I use all the time and want to get to quickly are pinned in positions 1-10 on my taskbar. I can launch or bring any of those to the front with Win+: Win-1 for the 1st, Win-2 for 2nd, up to Win-0 for the 10th. I can also use Alt-Win+ to bring up the jumplist for each of the apps, so that I can easily get to recent or pinned documents for each app.

    (2) I use AutoHotKey for a lot of more advanced automation. For apps I want to launch and switch to with a command, but don’t use quite often enough to put on the taskbar, I have set up a trigger in AutoHotKey (Ctrl+`) that then listens for the next two keys I type, and launches the app. I have things like Beyond Compare as “bc” and LinqPad as “lp”

    In honor of this challenge, I added another app (Azure DataStudio) to the AutoHotKey list. I have been using it more lately than SQL Server Management Studio.

  46. It worked! :) I created a Mail command to move email to my “To do” folder. Now I’ll be rethinking all my repetitive commands and seeing what other shortcuts I can create.

    I absolutely live by keyboard shortcuts. I spent a year learning one new shortcut every two weeks and it was revolutionary. I don’t remember all of them now, but I do remember the ones that matter the most.

  47. The less mouse work then better! Feeling like an million bucks after hitting ctrl + shift + c for chrome. I knew I used chrome a lot but you don’t realize how many times until you’re consciously remembering to use your spiffy new shortcut. Going to work on a few more…brb.

  48. I use this all the time for many years for frequently used menu items in different applications (Mail, iCal, Screenflow, OmniFocus and some more). The shortcuts are so engrained in my workflows that I have to “toggle a switch” working on a computer of somebody else.
    One of the shortcuts I used in the past, but is apparently not possible anymore, was the “COMMAND+P” and then “P” again (I learned this shortcut a long time ago from MacSparky). “COMMAND+P” still goes to the print menu, but I have to select “save as PDF” to print the document as PDF. I really miss this shortcut.

  49. Great! I just created two shortcuts for my main comunicación apps, Microsoft teams and Outlook. Can’t believe that the I didn’t this before.

  50. I set up a shortcut for Chrome, and – while I was at it – I set Chrome to open to the most used pages. However, I think moving forward I’m going to have Chrome launched by task scheduler about 30 min before I normally use it – that should save me a couple of minutes at the beginning of my work sessions each day. I’ll keep an eye open for other keyboard shortcuts that will come in handy.

  51. Did it!
    Applied this after Day 1 session with opening a program used regularly & just now created a few more speedy keyboard shortcuts to other regularly opened software – appreciate less mouse work!

  52. Created a shortcut for Audacity, an audio editing software I use a lot. I tried creating another shortcut for a radio traffic software I use only to discover that it’s not possible: another reason to get rid of that program! 🤣

  53. I have completed this, added the short cut to my coding editor. This is nice, but I tend to use an app launcher and launch my application by their name, mainly do it this way because I tend to forget all the keyboard shortcuts I have already.

  54. I set up firefox with a keyboard shortcut, but noticed something interesting. When starting to type in “ctrl”, it defaults to “Ctrl + Alt” not “Ctrl + Shift” in the version of windows I’m using.

  55. Hello Efficient people,

    Finished my tasks. Set up Chrome, Evernote and PDF reader with Keyboard shortcuts.

    Thanks for sharing the details.


  56. Yes, this will save me a lot of time. I screen shot a lot and I also start Word and Excel a lot while I’m working in other places. This will speed the process up quite a bit. I set one up from Chrome and Excel.

  57. Hey there,

    Finished today’s challenge. Created 1 shortcut on the first day itself with Chrome browser.
    Today created 2 more – with Evernote and PDF

  58. Great – this is a real timesaver I wish I had known how to do this when I was writing my dissertation earlier this year! Making footnotes in word just got a lot easier.

  59. Done!

    I’m a huge fan of keyboard shortcuts too … saves time reaching to the mouse, scrolling to the right place, double-clicking, etc.

    I regularly use Windows+1 (or 2, 3, 4, etc.) to launch the apps in that position on my task bar. I setup CTRL+SHIFT+S to launch Windows Snippet because I frequently take screenshots for documentation purposes!

  60. Added a keyboard shortcut to the Zettlekasten app I use for information management, this is hopefully gong to make me use t more often

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