Scott Hanselman: How Many Keystrokes Do You Have Left?

With every tap on the keyboard, we are using up a finite number of keystrokes left in our lifetime. As a teacher, coder, blogger, podcaster and a father alongside his other roles, Scott Hanselman uses keystrokes as a measure of his productivity. Follow us into Scott’s mind and find out how he finds the time to do all that he does.

Meet Scott Hanselman 

1. Can you explain the concept of 5,000 keystrokes?
Well, 5,000 keystrokes is a simplified way of calculating the amount of time you have left in your life. Look at it this way, there are a finite number of keystrokes left in your hands before you die. So if you send me an email, and I don’t really know you – I may not reply and give you the gift of my 5,000 keystrokes. However, if I were to write a blog post or an entry on Wikipedia where I can share it with a URL, it doubles its power even if was to be shared with only one other person.
2. What do you mean by that – a blog post doubling its power?
What this means is that if you were to send me a question, I write a blog post, I send you the link, and then I go to sleep. And I’m getting free keystrokes all night long as people look at that blog post and they share that information with others. There are so many people out there doing amazing stuff right now and I want them to write blog posts and books so I can learn with them.
3. How can other people multiply their keystrokes?
Email is not a good use of your time or your keystrokes. So if someone asks you a question about a subject that you are an expert in (and everyone’s an expert at something), don’t write them a 5 paragraph email unless you take that email and turn it into a blog post. Turn it into a medium post, or a really long tweet. Literally put it somewhere the public can see it. These keystrokes can then live on.
4. You spoke about not spending time doing things you don’t want to be doing.
One thing that I’ve learned most recently is that ‘no’ is the most powerful thing that we have available to us. If you want to be really productive, stop doing the stuff that sucks and start doing what feeds your spirit.
5. So all you have to do is say no?
It’s very difficult to say no, but what I’ll do is to ask myself this question before I say yes, and that is ‘Is yes going to move my agenda forward?’ People ask me for coffee and I’ll think, ‘Well, it’s going to take 45 minutes to drive there and then we’re going to hang out for an hour and it’s going to blow 3 or 4 hours. Is this coffee meeting going to move my agenda forward?’ If it is, then I should go, if it isn’t, then I say no. Lately, my agenda has been spending time with my family so I say no to a lot of stuff.
6. What are your thoughts on productivity?
You don’t want to be productive for productivity’s sake. You’re productive not so you can run around and say ‘look how productive I am’. You do it so you can do the stuff you want to do. Being productive is not a competition. What productivity is to me is that I want to get my job done, I want to do it well and I want to get done so I can hang out with my wife and kids after that.
7. In your talks, you often mention working smarter and not working harder.
Amongst tech people, we have this phrase that if you do something twice, automate it. So I’m always looking for ways to automate things and work smarter, not harder. I don’t like doing things manually. That’s my general philosophy. If I can avoid doing manual or tedious work then I’ll write a program to do it for me.
8. How do you get so much done in a day?
There’s only so many hours that you have in a day but so few people actually catalog those hours and ask themselves, ‘where does the time go?’ I would suggest that you write it down. I spent 2 ½ hours watching TV yesterday. It made me happy at the time. But was that the 2 ½ hours I needed to be spending?
Try measuring what you’re doing in your day and if you think that something’s not working, cut it. If it isn’t moving your life forward, if it’s not helping you write that paper or finish that project at work, stop doing it. There’s so much cool stuff to be done, to be read, to be built, to be fixed for you to spend your limited time on things that don’t matter.


Rahil Arora leads Lenovo's Customer Stories Program.