Simple explanation: Type faster.
According to a paper written by the British Psychological Society in 2012, the average office worker spends nearly six hours a day at their desk. That’s six hours spent in front of a computer screen arranging random strings of characters into cohesive thoughts. You might spend your six hours hashing out reports, crafting elaborate emails no one will read or even writing clever blog articles about typing, but there’s one thing that all office workers have in common: We type a lot.
While the amount of words someone will type in a day varies by profession, your average office denizen will type somewhere in the ballpark of 5,000 to 8,000 words during an 8-hour shift. Considering most people type at an average speed of 45 WPM (words per minute), that’s roughly two to three hours of typing each day, or almost 40% of your day, just pushing keys.
If you’re a normal person, you probably don’t know your personal WPM off-hand. If that’s the case, here’s a simple website you can use to test your typing speed. Once you know your word-per-minute average, you can approximate how much time you spend each day typing. For example, if you average 65 WPM, you may only spend one and a half hours typing, instead of two. If you reach as high as 85 WPM then you probably only spend a little over an hour typing the same amount. And if you can type over 110 WPM then you can accomplish the same amount of typing in under an hour.
Now you might be thinking to yourself that achieving a word-per-minute faster than 115 is impossible. And you know what? You might be right. But you’re missing the point. The point isn’t to set the next record for fastest typing speed ever recorded. If you look at my examples above, you’ll notice that the biggest reduction in total time spent typing was the jump from 45 WPM to 65 WPM. This is because the benefits of typing faster grow incrementally smaller the faster you get. The jump from 85 WPM to 105 WPM will only save you 15 minutes, while the jump from 45 WPM to 65 WPM will give you an extra 30 minutes each day.
So, as I said at the start of this post, how can you be more productive at work? Spend less time typing by typing faster.
Naturally, once you have realized how much time you can save by improving your typing skills, the next question becomes, “How?” Well, there’s more than one answer. First, learn the basics and other industry-standard typing techniques. Second, as it is with most things, practice makes perfect. And finally, you may want to purchase a better keyboard.
While I suspect most people who work an office job have already graduated from the old “hunt and peck” technique of yesteryear, there are some basics of typing that might not be as obvious. First, don’t slouch. By adjusting your posture and body position you can prevent wrist injury, which will ultimately slow you down while you type. Be relaxed, but upright. Also keep in mind that your wrists should be level with the keyboard so that your fingers can arch over the keys without issue. Most office chairs are adjustable, so make sure to fiddle with your setup until you find the right seat position.
Another important thing to consider is your keyboard layout. While most keyboards follow the QWERTY layout, there are alternatives available. The DVORAK keyboard layout is one of the more popular alternatives, and was developed to be a more efficient layout with the most commonly used letters existing on home row. While some people swear that alternative keyboard layouts have improved their typing performance, there are no conclusive studies to prove that this is the case. For more information on alternative keyboards, click here.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
Sure, the more you type the faster you’ll get. But that’s not what I mean when I tell people to practice typing. Practice means running exercises and doing activities specifically designed to push your typing capabilities. If you aren’t trying to go faster, then your fingers won’t retain the muscle memory required to actually type faster. Make sense? As such, there are plenty of tools available to help you practice your typing. Websites like Ratatype or 10 Fingers offer services to improve your typing and test your speed. Other websites like Zty.pe employ similar strategies disguised as games to push you into typing faster.
The key is to focus on what you want to improve while you practice. Say you want to improve your accuracy, your practice might involve slowing down and taking extra time to make sure you aren’t hitting the wrong key or clicking two keys simultaneously. Alternatively, if your focus is all about speed (because who needs spleling anyway?), you could throw caution to the wind and track your KPM (keystrokes per minute) instead.
BUY A BETTER KEYBOARD
You probably have never thought twice about the keyboard you’re using, but the truth is that not all keyboards are created equal. In fact, your average keyboard that comes bundled with a desktop is pretty crummy. Even Apple’s aesthetically-pleasing minimalist keyboard pales in comparison to a solid mechanical option. I really like how Alex Cocilova put it in his article on PCWorld.
“Keyboards are of two kinds: (1) the cheapo, no-name slabs that are bundled by the millions with PCs, and (2) the ones that are actually worth using—and in most cases, that’s a mechanical keyboard. Stalwart friend to gamers and power typists alike, the mechanical keyboard’s physical operation and durability make it the gold standard for computer use. It’s not the only option out there—good alternatives abound for wireless, ergonomic, and other purposes—but if nothing else, ditching that freebie is something everyone should do.”
If you’re interested in learning more about mechanical keyboards, head back over to Alex Cocilova’s article. He does a great job explaining all of the benefits to a mechanical keyboard.
In the end, improving your typing speed by just 10 words per minute could save you as much as 20 minutes a day, six hours a month or three days a year. Is that worth it to you? I certainly hope so.