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I have been using computers since my last year of elementary school (or primary school if you’re British) which is going on two decades. Despite this extensive experience with using computer keyboards, it is only this year that I have taken the initial steps toward actually learning how to use the keyboard with correct form.
Given that my day job is office-based and computer-orientated, it seems rather silly that I have only now started paying attention to the correct use of the keyboard. The thing is, although my previous technique of randomly selecting between my forefingers, middle fingers and ring fingers (the pinkies were neglected in typing technique V1.0, unfortunately) was obviously not ideal, I had learned to utilise this inefficient and messy method to produce a fairly rapid rate of typing. However, amongst various other self-improvement ventures, the lockdown period has prompted me to reevaluate my typing technique and come to the conclusion that it was about time I learned how to type properly with correct form.
How to Get Started With Touch Typing
To get started with touch typing, you first need to know which keys are allocated to which finger. I have prepared a quick diagram for the correct fingering below. If you look down at your own keyboard, you’ll note that there are two raised marks; one on the “F” key and the other on the “J” key. These are the anchor points for your index fingers which you can use as a guide to ensure that your hands remain in the correct position.
Although you can use any sort of program to practice your touch typing (e.g. typing an email or typing on a word processor), I wanted something that would actually assess what I was doing so that I could track my progress and determine whether I was improving at all over time. I have therefore been using a website called 10 Fast Fingers (click here to be directed through).
When you open it up, you’ll see that it’s a fairly simple layout (you’ll also notice a lot of ads… but it’s a free website, so what’re you going to do!). The website allows you to practice your touch typing by randomly generating an endless stream of common English words (there are also tests in other languages if you’re learning one and want to kill two birds). However, as opposed to just practicing your typing in a Microsoft Word document, the website turns the touch typing process into a test by only giving you 60 seconds to type as many words as you can as quickly as you can.
You can’t just get away with spamming the keys though (and believe me, I’ve tried); the test not only monitors your correct inputs but also your errors. Once the timer counts down to zero, you will then be presented with a test result citing your speed (measured as correct words typed per minute) and your accuracy.
The test may sound straight forward, but touch typing requires you to be so comfortable with the keyboard layout that you needn’t take your eyes off the computer screen. If you’re anything like me (and have spent your life largely reliant on the keyboard to ensure your typing accuracy), this is easier said than done. You’ll soon realise on your first few attempts how hard it is to refrain from looking down at the keys to check that your hands remain in the correct location!
For me, a particularly tricky part was mastering typing with my pinkies which were previously neglected in my original slap dash typing method. I found that words which involved the use of the ring fingers and pinkies in quick succession were a nightmare to execute without paying close attention to the keyboard (typing “people” for instance is quite a challenge when first starting out!).
Inevitably, I was catching myself repeatedly looking at the word, trying to type it accurately, making a mess of it and finally giving up to look down and check my finger positioning. Even with the “F” and “J” keys as anchors, I still found my hands drifting one way or the other from time to time. As a result of this repeated action of looking up at the screen, then down at the keys, my first few attempts with the basic typing test were painfully slow. At best, I could perhaps manage a speed of 25-30 words per minute (making a whole bundle of typing errors in the process). And given that the touch typing method was meant to be swift and efficient, I was finding it a great deal slower than my regular sloppy technique! But, through perseverance, I have gradually been able to bring up my typing speed.
By just spending five or ten minutes each day practising using the 10 Fast Fingers website and then proceeding to utilise the touch typing method throughout the day (at work and at home), I have been able to double my touch typing speed to around 60 words per minute (evidence below!):
Why I Keep Practicing
Obviously, 60 words per minute is still nothing to write home about (and you’ll also notice that I managed to make quite a few mistakes in the process), but it is definitely an improvement on my starting position around one month ago when I was continually having to check the keyboard and refer back to the above fingering guide just to write a four letter word!
My goal with touch typing will be to confidently type at 100 words per minute without significant sloppy mistakes. This may take a while, but I think that with practice I will get there. As I type a lot for work, the ultimate aim in developing my touch typing skill will be to cut down the amount of time I take to carry out routine typing tasks. If I am able to shave off a few seconds on the typing of each email and a few minutes off the production of each piece of work purely through more efficient typing, the total time saving should really add up by the end of each day and allow me to motor through each day’s work much more swiftly.
Given how hectic work can be at times and how towering the “to-do” list can become, anything that will allow me to save time and get through my projects in less time is worth practicing. So if you’ve also been neglecting the proper typing technique and you’re looking for productivity hacks to save you a bit of time, why not give it a try?