Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Touchtyping for Speed

Whether you're doing a bicep curl in a chilly gym or talking to world leaders, there are no shortcuts- everything is reps, reps, reps.”
-Arnold Schwarzenegger, Total Recall.

Before Christmas, I started to learn the basics of touchtyping using a free package called Klavaro. After a month of learning the home keys, top and bottom rows, symbols, and then a mix of these in adaptability, I wrote up this post

I was on a roll, and there was little point stopping this early. After the 6th December I carried on hammering the package to see how I could improve. By the 12th I felt like I was going around in circles with adaptability, so I moved onto the speed section of the program.

The goal of 40 words per minute (wpm) was way above what I was attaining, and I was making many errors with keystrokes, so on the 14th I went back to adaptability. The problem with this section is there is no way of measuring any improvement- no way of attaining a personal best. This can only be achieved in the speed section. I went back to speed on the 21st.

To measure my improvement, I made a note of my wpm after the first exercise. It was depressingly far below the suggested target. I knew that the more time I spent practising, the faster I would get, so I gave myself a month from this point to get my speed up as high as I could. Here are my wpm records for the month:

22/12 31.8
22/12 32.8
23/12 33.3
23/12 33.6
24/12 34.0
26/12 35.6
27/12 36.5
31/12 37.9
1/1 38.7
12/1 39.0
12/1 39.1
13/1 40.2
16/1 40.9

As you can see, there were days when I was on a roll, and my speed was on the up. Then at other times I hit plateaus, and got stuck there for weeks. It started to get a little frustrating, putting in this much time and not seeing the gains. This was when I remembered Arnie's advice from the closing section of his book. It's all reps. All practice. It doesn't matter if you don't improve immediately: you will see the gains eventually if you keep practising. My speed hasn't improved in the last week, but the practice I've put in will be getting me closer to that. The reps- or the number of lessons, in this case- since I last beat a PB has helped me to memorise the keyboard a little better, and has reduced the amount of mistakes I make.

Klavaro uses words that are commonly found in the English language- conjunctions like “or” and “and”, but also more unusual words like “Braille” and “Orcs” appear with curious frequency. The programmers are obviously fans of disability awareness and JRR Tolkien.

Along the way I made a note of a few hints and tips I noticed.

  1. Don't listen to music while practising- especially not rap. Also turn the TV off totally; don't just turn the sound down. Remove the distractions.
  2. Minimise any other windows or files you might have open to allow you to focus.
  3. Don't get annoyed by mistakes. They are a part of learning. If you do, you end up making more. Relax.
  4. Keep your nails short.

For now, though, that's enough touchtyping lessons for me. I have other plans to develop different skills in the hope I might get an all-over higher level of writing ability. Time to rep out on other things...

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