Oftentimes, productivity methods promise great results, but it isn’t quite tangible. For many, having concrete numbers and statistics to reference can make it more appealing.
Here is how I think of it:
We have input, which is the words that you type in an essay, or the notes that you take during class. You have the methodology – the way in which you parse that input, and finally, the output, which is your finished product.
The way you become more productive is directly improving the way we approach these stages of work. That is why we see an improvement when we switch inferior methods of studying with amended strategies. One thing that is often overlooked, however, is improving how we manage input. The main method of input – typing – can be improved through practice.
The History of Typing
The first commercial typewriters were made in 1874, but were only implemented in offices by the mid 1880s. From then on, typewriters were the office standard up until the 1980s, when personal computers and desktops took over. In 1878, the ‘shift’ key was introduced. This key shifted the holding carriage (or the typebar), and allowed for each key to type two different characters.
After typewriters were commercialized, the speed of input – and consequently, information production and communication – increased drastically.
Think of your input like the typewriter. If you are able to input things faster, you become more efficient.
How typing speed is measured
Typing speed is generally measured in words per minute (WPM). If you take a typing test, you often are tasked with typing as many words as you can in a 60 second time frame. With this information, you also are given your accuracy (often expressed as a percentage).
How to improve your typing speed
First, lets summarize the results you should expect.
After your first week, you should improve your typing speed by ~15 WPM (assuming you practice for 20 minutes each day).
As your typing speed increases, your rate of improvement will naturally decrease, but you will only notice this after you have practiced for a significant amount of time.
Here is the routine:
15 minutes – Practice fundamental word patterns and touch typing @ Keybr
5 minutes – Build muscle memory for the most common words in the English language (Top 1000) @ 10fastfingers
12 minutes – Practice letter patterns (start to type words, not letters) @ Keybr
8 minutes – Further muscle memory for the most common words in the English language (Top 1000) @ 10fastfingers
5 minutes – Brush up on letter patterns (at this point, you should be proficient at typing words instead of letters) @ Keybr
15 minutes – Take the regular typing test (Top 200) @ 10fastfingers
The balance between accuracy and speed
As you start this routine, you will notice that mistakes can seriously cost you, especially if you have to fix your error. That is why I recommend going for speed when you first start out, and eventually switch to a more conservative typing speed (where you can focus on accuracy).
The reason I recommend this is because you need to still build the muscle memory of typing words quickly. Once this is achieved, you can start to focus on typing accuracy. Oftentimes, you will realize that you even type faster (in WPM) when you try to be accurate.
Type words, not letters.
Once you get the muscle memory of typing (by week 1-2), you should start typing whole words at once, instead of focusing on each individual letter.
What does this mean?
When I type ‘mountain’, I am not thinking ‘M-O-U-N-T-A-I-N’, I instead am putting my fingers where they should be, and typing ‘MOUN-TAIN’. Eventually, you can get to the proficiency in which you can type the whole word at once (‘MOUNTAIN’), but that will only be developed by week 3 (and beyond).
The idea of this is to pre-place your fingers in the correct position to type the word, and simply letting them fall, almost at once (of course, the keys should be pressed in the correct order).
You can practice this by going into Keybr, and typing the whole word at once, pausing, and typing the next word. This pause should be .5 – 1 second long, which is enough for you to comprehend what you have typed. As you progress, start decreasing the length of this pause. By the end of week 2, heading into week 3, this pause should be unnoticeable, and you should be typing words (or syllables of long words), all in one motion.
Whatever you do, don’t look down.
I beg of you, please don’t look at your keyboard when you are typing. If you do, you are ruining the development of your muscle memory, and are severely limiting the speed at which you can type.
Just think about it – if you have to look down at your keyboard for a key, that removes .3 seconds of time from your typing. You could be using this time to look at the word you have to type, and place your fingers in their correct place.
Alternate Keyboard Layouts
I personally use an alternate keyboard layout – Colemak, which remaps the keys to minimize hand movement. If you have to type often, this can save you from getting arthritis, or damaging your wrists. The most frequent letters in English are placed on the home row, so I am able to type common words without moving my hands. (I don’t have to move my left middle finger just to hit ‘e’).
The layout you are probably using, QWERTY, was designed to minimize mistakes on a typewriter, because typists were typing too fast. This layout is, simply put, inferior.
It will take you quite a long time to get used to the new key positions (grind Keybr!), but once you master them, you will notice that typing will become way easier.
Note: This is not mandatory to improve your typing speed – many fast typists use QWERTY – but it can make typing more comfortable for you.
How you should use Keybr
As mentioned in the plan, Keybr is used for developing the muscle memory of common letter combinations and patterns in the English language. Keybr is a tutor, you can go to your profile and see which keys you make the most mistakes in, and see a handy graph of your progress.
This is my graph. As you can see, there is still a general uptrend, but I am starting to plateau at ~85-90 WPM.
Graphs aside, you should be using Keybr to find the keys that you need assistance with, and focus on getting them correct (and confident) in the future. With Keybr, you should also be working on developing the ‘word typing’ method, which I spoke about earlier.
Why is this important?
To figure out the importance of this, let us look at some data:
Student Average Typing Speed (13-27 y/o)
As we can see here, most students (13-27) have an average typing speed of 30-40 WPM. If you practice enough, and obtain a 75 WPM average, you would essentially be typing 2x faster than the average student.
Back to the input idea from earlier. If you are able to input things 2x faster, you are essentially 2x more effective (assuming nothing changes in your methodologies). That is why learning to type fast is so powerful.
That essay that took you two hours to write can now be completed in an hour.