I’m not someone who likes to give productivity tips to others. I strongly believe that each of us is different and has a unique way how to get things done. What works for one person may not work for another one. There is though one productivity tip that I feel deserves some attention. It is something that is being largely ignored by education system in most professions and countries and is totally ignored by companies. The ability of knowledge workers to “touch type”. Just look around you. How many of your colleagues can type on a computer using all ten fingers without looking at the keyboard or the screen to verify what they are typing?
Why it matters?
This is one of the skills that always gave me an edge in my professional life, the ability to type while “being present”. Just imagine a typical situation. You sit on a meeting with several of your colleagues and you discuss the next steps on your project. You are not particularly fast when typing on computer so you usually bring a notepad and pen with the idea to transfer your notes to electronic form after the meeting. Or you are a bit better so you actually bring your laptop but because you need to shift your attention to your keyboard when making notes you miss half of the discussion.
What difference would it make if you could make your notes on your laptop automatically without thinking while you still follow the discussion? In professionally run meetings you can expect that there is someone who will take the notes and share them after the meeting, but let’s face it, that is not always the case and especially if you are not the one who organizes the meeting you have very little control over whether the notes will be taken. Unless you volunteer. And I guess you will volunteer only if you are comfortable enough to take the task. The ability to type can help a lot to get that comfort level.
And the same goes to writing emails, presentations or proposals. Instead of focusing on “how” you write it you would be able to focus on “what” you are writing. Do you drive? Are you using a car with manual transmission? And do you still remember your first attempts when you had to concentrate so much on what your hands are doing that you didn’t have time to pay attention to what is happening on the road around you? And then think how this changed when you were able to automate what your hands are doing and you didn’t even think about it. All your attention is on the traffic, the signs and the pedestrian who just decided to step in front of your car in an attempt to get himself faster to work or to hospital.
You see the benefits immediately. For professionals who spend their days glued to a computer typing is like a driving license. So why you never spent the effort to learn how to drive your computer? And it is so easy!
How to get there?
I never went to a professional training, I never had “touch typing” as a subject at school, but when I realized that my whole life will evolve around computers I decided to spend some time to get at least a decent proficiency in typing. It was when I was at university and all what it took was a disciplined 30-60 minutes a day over the period of two months. I’m not saying that I’m a professional typist and if I try to type as fast as someone dictates I get lost after couple of sentences. However, when writing this article I have no idea what my fingers are doing, I don’t really need to look at the screen and I can really think about the content and what I want to write. That is all what you need to make your professional life so much simpler and more efficient.
There are numerous courses and training material online so all what it takes is a bit of dedication and self-discipline. You will see that after couple of weeks you will start feeling really good about your newly build ability. The one thing that will make it really hard is to get rid of your old habits. Most of people working with computers found some ways how to write relatively fast using two, or four fingers and when you decide to type like a pro you need to be willing to stop the old habit. You will never learn how type properly if you will do it just during your training session but for the rest of the day you will continue in your old ways. You should work hard to practice even during your normal day. Yes, it will slow you down initially, but it will pay off in the long run.
So how do you get started? Just google it up or check for example this.
Twitter type summary: “Productivity tip: touch typing is one of the most useful and under-appreciated skills a knowledge worker needs.”
Can you type? How, when and why did you learn it? How many people around you can type?