How to type faster

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As you can imagine, one of our passions here at Das Keyboard is for really fast typing. We love that Das Keyboard has helped so many people to improve the speed and accuracy of their typing skills and we’re always looking for ways to help more. I came across a great post by David Turnbull with his 9 tips for How to Type 100+ Words Per Minute. These are quoted directly from his site:

  1. Feel the location of keys. If you can’t feel the location of keys whilst typing slowly then you won’t be able to type fast. Close your eyes and try to type out your full name. Go as slow as you need to. Repeat this exercise until you can identify every key by touch. Touch typing is the foundation of speed.
  2. Switch to DVORAK. Like most people I use the QWERTY keyboard setup, but this setup is actually designed to slow down typing (it goes back to the days of typewriters). DVORAK is meant to be the fastest keyboard layout to use and if you’re serious about typing fast you should definitely look into it. Some people claim making the switch doesn’t make a huge difference, but at the very least your fingers will be moving less and therefore less likely to strain.
  3. Use the DAS Keyboard Ultimate. Whilst it’s not available as a DVORAK keyboard, this is still a pretty nice looking piece of hardware. It claims to be the best keyboard for typing, which is obviously debatable, but the cool thing is, the keys aren’t labelled. They’re all just flat, black surfaces. This means you’re forced to memorise the location of keys.
  4. Play the piano. One of the first instruments I learned to play was the piano. I was never particularly brilliant at it, but the skills required are similar to that of typing on a computer keyboard: speed, accuracy and finding the location of keys. Sure, the most “pure” type of practice will be with a computer keyboard, but playing the piano will less likely induce boredom.
  5. Have something to type. The only times I type slowly are when I’m trying to tackle writer’s block. It’s my brain that’s moving slowly, not my fingers. Have something clear in your mind that you want to type before trying to clear 100+ words per minute.
  6. Beware of traditional typing tests. Tests that determine your typing speed have a major flaw: they require you to read. I’m certainly no speed reader, but I’m not slow either, yet it still takes me a second to “process” the sentences I read in a typing test, and then I have to regurgitate them on the keyboard.
  7. Typing tests 2.0. Back in high school, we’d occasionally be in the library where our teacher would dictate information we had to type into a Word document. I found this to be the best typing test available. There’s little thought required and, unlike in a traditional typing test, your thoughts aren’t jumping ahead to the words you have to write in the future (because you don’t know what they are). It’s a very “in the moment” test of typing speed.
  8. Practice with substance. Don’t try to improve your typing speed by typing out some lame sentence over and over again. Start a blog or novel that makes typing both interesting and engaging. There’s no single moment where I thought “wow, I can type fast!” I was simply always typing something that I found interesting and my speed progressed naturally.
  9. You don’t need to follow conventions. In primary school there was a chart on the wall that displayed where you should place your fingers on the keyboard. I ignored it. Whilst I’m sure these diagrams have value, I feel it’s best to just do what feels natural. If typing doesn’t feel natural for you at all then maybe use these types of diagrams as a starting point, but don’t feel constricted by them.
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Thanks to David for his tips above. I was, or course, both appreciative and honored that Das Keyboard made it in as number 3. But this also got me thinking; how many other tips are out there for improving your typing speed? So I wanted to ask you; what tips or tricks have you learned and/or used to increase your typing speed? Have you been able to get it over 100 WPM?

Take Your Free Speed Typing Test Here

Words Errors Mistyped Words
Accuracy Words Per Minute Time to Completion

Words are counted once you have moved on to the next word. Errors are counted character by character within words. Puncuation is counted as part of the word that precedes it. Mistyped words are counted when you move on to the next word. Accuracy is counted character by character. Words per minute is updated each time you type, based on words completed and moved on from since you first started typing. If you stop in the middle of typing for a while, you will need to start a new test to get an accurate word per minute count. Time to completion is calculated just once, only after you have typed the number of words given in that particular typing test.

Finger Placement for Proper Typing Technique

With proper typing technique, you should be typing with all 10 fingers.

That’s right! Even your little pinky fingers should be working hard for you to improve your overall typing speed and accuracy.

Take a moment to review the image below.

keyboard-finger-placement

(Image Source: Keybr)

Notice how the keyboard is color-coded. We’ll talk about that in a second.

The first thing you should understand about your keyboard is that there is a little bump on the “f” and “j” keys.

Have you ever wondered what those little bumps on the f and j keys are for?

They’re there to serve as a mental map, kind of like braille, to let you know where your fingers are at all times on the keyboard without having to look down and find the right key.

If that sounds difficult, don’t worry! It’s actually a lot easier than you think.

The f and j keys are where your left and right index fingers should be hovering respectively when you’re typing.

Starting from the left side of the keyboard in the blue zone, you should be using your left pinky finger to hit the `, 1, q, a and z keys.

Your left hand ring finger should be used for 2, w, s and x in the green zone.

Your left hand middle finger should be used for 3, e, d and c in the purple zone.

Your left hand index finger should be used for 4, 5, r, t, f, g, v and b in the yellow zone.

Your right hand index finger should be used for 6, 7, y, u, h, j, n and m in the 2nd green zone.

Your right hand middle finger should be used for 8, i, k, and , in the 2nd purple zone.

Your right hand ring finger should be used for 9, o, l, and . in the yellow zone.

Your right hand pinky finger should be used for 0, -, =, p, [, ], \, ;, ‘, and / in the final blue zone on the right.

Why Typing Technique Matters

The goal of this proper hand placement is that you don’t have to move your hands nearly as much when you type, improving your efficiency and therefore speed.

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The less distance your fingers have to travel, the faster you will be able to type.

For those of you used to hunt and peck typing, also called two-fingered typing, another huge benefit is that you’ll be using all your fingers like a typing pro.

By using all 10 fingers when you type, your speed will be dramatically improved for several reasons.

First, less travel distance between fingers and keys means faster typing.

Second, with proper technique, your hands will always be near the center of the keyboard. This regularity of location will allow your mind to quickly form an “internal keyboard map.”

In other words, you’ll be able to quickly unconsciously memorize the positions of all the keys on the keyboard, so that you can type while looking at the screen instead of constantly staring at the keyboard wondering “Where the heck is that pesky semicolon key at?

Hint: It’s directly under your right pinky finger when in proper position.

More Reasons to Learn How to Type Faster

Typing faster doesn’t just allow you to write faster and save time. I believe it can also help you become a much better writer for several reasons.

First, in my experience writing and publishing more than 25 books, I’ve noticed that most of my writing output happens in a few short bursts during what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls flow (his book called Flow is a great read and highly recommended.)

If you’ve ever found yourself writing effortlessly, words just flowing on paper or at your computer, you know what I mean.

One of the amazing things about writing in a state of flow is that time loses all meaning. Sometimes hours will pass before you realize how long you’ve been writing.

Other times, you may look back at the end of your writing session and notice you’ve written thousands of words and don’t remember how it all happened.

“The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.” ~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

Although I’m a big fan of 5 to 15 minute daily writing sessions, when I get in a state of flow, I could write for much longer, even a few hours in one sitting. It’s important to write consistently and get in the habit of a regular routine, if not a daily writing routine like I recommend. But here’s the thing…

When you are able to type and write faster, it’s much easier to stay in a state of flow, and to get more out of your flow states when writing. It’s easier to get into a state of flow because you’re now a skilled typist. You don’t have to hunt and peck or look around for the keys on the keyboard. You can look at the screen and the words you’re writing rather than looking around the keyboard (this is called touch typing, or typing by feel).

This level of mastery as a typist allows you to focus all your energy on the words and the message you’re sharing, not on the method (typing). The other reason typing faster can help you get much more out of your writing sessions when in flow is because our minds move very fast, much faster than we can speak, read or even type.

The average person may only type 41.4 words per minute, but I guarantee you can think a whole lot faster than that.

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In other words, the constraint on our writing output is NOT how fast we can think (at least during a state of flow), but simply how fast we can type what we’re thinking.

Anyone who’s a serious student of productivity and/or economics can tell you that you always want to work on improving the limiting constraint because it’s where you’ll get the best results with the least amount of input.

If you can think 200 words per minute (probably a very low estimate) and only write 40 words per minute, doubling, tripling, or even quadrupling your thinking speed will not help you write more or write faster (although it could theoretically help you plan, plot and create outlines faster).

If you want to write more and write faster, simply learn how to type faster. Your typing speed is the main limiting constraint on writing output.

Actually, that last sentence is not quite true. Your typing speed is the main limiting constraint on writing output when you’re in a state of flow.

So, if you want to write faster and produce more, here’s what you have to do:

  1. Get in the state of flow more often and/or for longer periods of time, and
  2.  Increase your typing speed so you can take better advantage of your creative output during flow and be more productive overall.

Because your writing speed is your main constraint when writing in flow, every tiny little improvement in your speed leads directly to more output.

Of course, this assumes that you actually know what you’re going to write before you sit down at the computer.

That’s why I always recommend planning your writing sessions before you write.

How to Improve Your Typing Accuracy

Keep in mind when practicing to improve your writing speed that speed comes before accuracy. In other words, when you switch to using the proper typing technique, it will take time for your muscles and brain to adjust to this new way of typing.

Just like when Tiger Woods switched his golf swing, you too will need to be patient as your mind and muscles adjust to your new typing technique. You will not see instant improvement in 5 minutes, but you will see incredible improvements in your typing speed and accuracy if you stick with it and keep using the proper technique.

Here are some additional tips to help improve your typing accuracy:

  • Don’t get upset or overreact when you make a mistake. Mistakes are a natural part of the learning process. When you get angry or upset, this changes your brain chemistry and makes it harder for you to learn better writing techniques. It’s also bad for your health! Stay calm and relaxed as much as possible. If you get upset, take a break and cool down before resuming your typing practice.
  • Practice where you are weak. If you notice you keep hitting the ‘w’ button instead of ‘q’, try deliberately practicing hitting the right keys. You can switch back in forth between hitting the two keys as fast as you can and train the muscle memory in your fingers to hit in the right spot each time.
  • Set your balance point. When you place your hands at the keyboard, stay conscious of their placement and make sure they are always resting in the same spot. This will give you a “balance point” from which to move your fingers and type most efficiently. Just like each basketball player has a technique for preparing to shoot accurate free throws, you should have a technique and practice in place to type accurately.
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