Learning to Touch-Type, Once and for All, Without Drills or Gimmicks
What does it really mean to touch-type? Many think that it simply means positioning your hands correctly, with your index fingers on the F and J keys. While that is the correct hand position, I have known many people to still rely heavily on looking at the keyboard.
Looking at the keyboard may not seem like a big deal. But if you’ve ever let a type-o slip through the cracks, or only noticed it four sentences later, then it’s a real nuisance. Stuff like that doesn't happen when you're looking at the screen.
It's understandable, though! Taking the time to actually think about were the keys are detracts from thinking about what is being typed. There's too much work to do! This is why it is so easy to fall into the habit of looking at the keyboard; we don’t want to slow down or loose our train of thought. But, in doing so, we still take the time to look, and we stall the development of the muscle memory.
The key (no pun intended) to productive typing is muscle memory. Learning to touch-type means that you no longer rely on looking at the keyboard, and you no longer need to think about where the keys are; it’s automatic. You think about what you want to type, and your fingers do the rest. It will probably take weeks (or months?) to really reach that level, depending on how much you type. Letting it happen "naturally" over time could end up taking years, or it could never happen. It’s easier that one might think, and it will be worth it.
You can teach yourself to touch-type without tutorials, typing tutors, drills, or any of that stuff. If you have work to do, and your work requires typing, then that's all you need. There's no need to try to find time in your crazy life to dedicate to Type-Master 101 (or whatever).
How to Do It
1. Accept that there will be an initial slow-down. It might not be a good idea to start this when it's crunch time at work. But for the most part, a temporary slow-down in your typing speed is unlikely to have a big impact on your productivity (unless typing isyour job). Some of the most productive engineers I've worked with were the worst typers I've ever seen. If they can be productive, then so will I.
2. Use the proper hand position: forefingers on the F and J keys. Don't move your hands around, just your fingers (except for those keys that are out of reach).
3. Memorize the keyboard. ("Uh, duh!") But, to be honest, it might be worth going through this step, just to be sure, even if you think you have it memorized. It's quite simple: do the alphabet. That's it. Don't waste your time with drills that focus on sequences of letters that are common in the English language; that won't help you remember where a key is. Just type A to Z until you can do it comfortably and without any long pauses.
4. Don’t look. … EVER. OK, except for the occasional glance for aim when stretching for those hard-to-reach keys (“|”, “+”, “]”, numbers, etc..). You should truly never look for a letter. … Unless of course, you’ve just taken a bite of your morning Danish, which has resulted in a sweet, cheesy mess on one hand, leaving one-handed hunt-and-peck as the only option.
5. Pace yourself. This is very important. Ever heard the old saying “practice makes perfect”? Well, that’s close. The truth is: “perfect practice makes perfect”!
Only go as fast as you can go without making mistakes. Sure, correcting a mistake may be simple, but it disrupts your rhythm, and you don’t want those mistakes making it into your muscle memory.
Set the pace so you can type at a steady rate, instead of typing the easy words very quickly and pausing extra long when you need to think. Think ahead! Keep it steady during those words that come easy so you can use the time to think about what’s coming up. Long pauses can become a habit.
6. Keep at it! Progress will seem slow at times. But if you stick to these simple rules, the progress will be steady.
- There's a good chance that you will not notice any improvement during the day. You might actually feel that your typing has gotten worse! But you're really just tired. Not sleepy, but the typing part of you is tired. Most often you will notice the improvement the next day, after you've slept on it, and all of your practice has had a chance to sink in.
- You will have the occasional "brain fart". You'll be typing steadily along, and you suddenly stop, as if you stalled out. This can be quite common in the beginning. But don't be tempted to look down! Don't think "Oh, just real quick to remind myself". This is the kind of just-this-once attitude that will become a habit. If your typing stalls out, just give it a second. It'll come. And pushing through these kinds of things will cause them to happen less and less often.
- After you start to become proficient, once in a while, you will run into a word that gives you trouble. You either have to think about every single letter, or you always make a type-o. This will happen less frequently over time. It may help to (carefully) re-type that word 5 to 10 times to engrain the correct muscle pattern.
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