The Life-Changing Magic of Text Expanders

When I graduated college in 2001, I fell under the spell of the Wall Street investment banks.

I had one of those jobs where you worked 100+ hours a week, got anxiety attacks every time you saw your Blackberry’s flashing red light, and constantly cancelled plans with 5 minutes worth of notice.

Ahhhh, to be young.

Twenty years removed from dat life I’m often asked if I’d recommend that career path for someone today.

TBH, I’m not sure but there were some key learnings:


  • A fixed 60 hour work week (to this day) never feels difficult
  • I learned at a young age that bosses can be completely unrealistic and outright mean
  • (I know, I’m not painting a compelling picture)


But my biggest learnings involved a hazing ritual.

Don’t worry: no alcohol or streaking was involved.

Of “mice” and men

At the end of our Investment Banking Bootcamp, we were given a test: Build a financial model without using the mouse.

And thus began my 20 year love affair with never using my mouse.

Meet the Text Expander

You’re probably thinking: this feels like a solution in search of a problem.

After all, a mouse click requires less than a second of your time. Yet according to Inc Magazine:

  • We spend an average of just 1 minute and 15 seconds on a task before being interrupted.
  • It takes an average of 25 minutes to resume a task after being interrupted.
  • Heavily multitasking can temporarily lower your IQ by up to 15 points.

Text Expanders do exactly what their name implies – create shortcuts for your heavily-used phrases.

Example 1: Basic Info

Watch how quickly you can expand addresses, phone numbers, and emails. (These are fake, so you cant dox me!)

Example 2: Advanced (Basic) Info

As a consultant and speaker, I often need to reference my W-9, profile photo, social links and bio.

Example 3: Canned email responses

Now we’re getting to the good stuff. Here are two common email responses:

  • A scheduling email
  • Responding to a customer refund request

Now you can start to see how the time savings accrue.

Example 4: Note-taking templates

Here are two templates (in markdown) to standardize your notes:

  • Journaling Prompts
  • Meeting Notes

The possibilities are endless…

The only limitation is your imagination, here are other use cases to get you inspired:


  • Commonly accessed webpages (i.e. Specific Google Docs, Advanced Twitter Search)
  • Social media blocks (i.e. YouTube descriptions)
  • Investing decision journals
  • WordPress CSS/HTML shortcodes and code snippets
  • Situational email signatures (i.e. for consulting clients vs sales emails)
  • Customer onboarding emails
  • Affiliate links
  • Lorem Ipsum
  • ASCII Art


There are all flavors of text expansion, here are a few ways to get started:


  • Use the native text expansion in MacOS (unsure if there’s one on Windows)
  • Use the built-in expanders in Gmail (“canned responses”) or Superhuman (“snippets”)
  • Dedicated apps like TextExpanderAtext and Alfred (all RadReader favorites)


?See our full library of examples.

And ALWAYS ask yourself …

WHY do you want to be more productive? For me, it’s so that I can double down on the projects and people I love. Text expanders neatly check that box, taking the dread out of email and freeing the mindspace for creative projects and my kids.

But be warned, like any good habit, using a Text Expander requires significant behavior change… And that doesn’t happen overnight.

Many thanks to the Twitter hive mind that came together to collaborate on this post.

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