Can you learn anything in just 20 hours? This week I took on the challenge of working on my touch-typing. I have been reading the book The First 20 hours: How to Learn Anything Fast by Josh Kaufman. So can I improve my touch typing this week? I must admit I am not trying to expect ultra fast typing in a week. Typing “lite” is my goal. I would like to get to 40wpm to begin. I have to get away from being so dependent on looking at the keys frequently. That is my most important goal.
I began thinking that practice alone will make this happen. But practice without focus only reinforces habits. I first tested myself to see how well I typed. I began with a dismal 24wpm count and lots of mistakes. I began with ARTypist a free on-line program to work on my skills. First off, this is an indoor activity, which was difficult when the weather was so gorgeously summer-like. I realized I have a focus problem. One of Kaufman’s tips, “avoid distractions”. How do you avoid distractions? Close the blinds.
After doing the exercises for a few hours, I soon discovered my problem with typing is that I was constantly using the wrong fingering and had not mastered many of the letters. I had been relying on the spell check on my computer to compensate for my errors. The exercises were helpful and made me focus on my hand positioning.
I also found I was trying to learn too many letters simultaneously. This program encouraged precision and not speed. So good so far because my precision was not good. I needed more skill work. Kaufman points out, skill acquisition requires a person to focus on one skill at a time and breaking down skills into sub-skills. As I focused on what I was doing, the anxiousness to get it right subsided. It was better to give myself completely to the task at hand. But after awhile this got to be monotonous. I read more about touch-typing in Kaufman’s book and switched to another program he recommended called Tipp10. This was more interesting and used real words to type. It kept track of speed and errors which was very helpful. But then I hit another snag. This program was asking me to use some letters that I had not mastered. I did another speed test after practicing about 6 hours going back and forth between programs. I was only up to 33wpm with many 45 errors again.
Time to regroup. What are the barriers that I was facing? One, I still had not mastered some letters and hand positions. Two, repetition was losing my interest and slowing me down. Kaufman calls for working on speed and quantity. More skill development needed. Slowing down a bit to focus on precision. Then I retested 29wpm with 36 mistakes. So, back to skill development. I did not find the perfect solution, but working on letter skill and not pushing for speed worked best. Then I went back to typing. So after about 10 hours into this project where do I stand? Slightly improved. I am still at about 30 wpm. With another 10 hours, we will see. I am not the 50 wpm I had hoped, but my understanding of the keyboard has improved. I have made progress, I don’t look at the keyboard!
Most importantly, I realized something about myself. My tendency to not focus on the specifics a the skill and try to rush accomplishment. Kaufman’s focus on speed did not help here. What did help was learning to take apart the skills into smaller bits, learning to keep total focus for short amounts of time, and learning not to work on skills when the weather outside is too nice not to enjoy. Another 10 hours to go…