66 - Mental models are keyboard shortcuts



What is different about how technophiles and power users use computers?

Version control instead of those ridiculously named attachments, command line interface instead of regular GUI, and keyboard shortcuts, of course.

We all aspire to be power users of the software we use most often. It is frustrating to not be able to do what we want to at anything less than full capacity. A keyboard shortcut pushes us closer to our goal with minimum input. Mental models are no different. They allow us to make decisions while burning minimum mental calories.

Take your favorite keyboard shortcut. Say that’s c on Gmail. Hit it and a window opens for composing a new message. What could be its equal in decision-making? Maybe the mental model of inversion? When faced with a decision, ask first: ‘What’s the worst outcome and how do I avoid it?’ See how it narrows things down and brings clarity.

Some of you may say, ‘I don’t like frameworks or mental models. I trust my gut.’ And you should. But soon you’ll run into situations your gut will have no reference points for. And you’ll struggle, just like you do with legacy payroll software your company uses.

Now reframe your notion of mental models a touch. Think of them not as extra luggage you’ve to carry, but a toolkit that you can unpack anywhere, anytime. Suddenly, decision-making and mental models are a productivity hack.

You could for what it’s worth make the right decision every time if you had unlimited time, attention, information, energy. But you don’t. Nobody does. So the more you can save your mental juice for the big, hairy decisions, the better off you are.

The digital natives, the mobile-first generation, those whose jaws drop when you say the phrase directory structure–those zoomers will demand and build next-generation software that will read minds. Without it it will be impossible for them to function. There’ll just be so many things to do that they’ll all have to be power users.

Much the same way, knowledge workers like you and me will have more information, less time, higher stakes, more decisions. We can deal with all this as normal users and burn ourselves out. Or we can learn to be power users and make the most of what is possible. By learning how to make better decisions faster.

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