32 - The Top LifeHack to Learn this Year - Sam Harris
Play episode · 14 min

A short episode on my favourite lifehack of 2018. This is a real skill you can quickly acquire over a few weeks with minimal effort and it will pay great dividends for the rest of your life.


The lifehack is Touch typing! Listen to the episode to find out the details and allow me a chance to convince you and hopefully slightly change your life for the better.


These days we have all heard about the benefits of meditating, eating healthy and going to the gym. There are lots of tricks and hacks people publish to help you get more out of life but I have never come across any article mentioning Touch Typing.

Touch Typing has been a completely overlooked skill that is quite possibly one of the best life hacks anyone can learn without making any radical changes to your life or redefining who you are or anything.

Learning to meditate or going to the gym every day and getting better sleep is for sure great for you, but I’m not sure if it’s even a life hack so I don’t know why Life-Hack lists are always full of them. And for any of those things to be effective you have to learn to actually enjoy doing them, otherwise, it’s just a short-term thing that takes effort and doesn’t change your life in any way at all.

So although learning to Touch Type may sound like perhaps the least sexy life-hack anyone has ever mentioned, I believe it is a truly universal life hack that will pay you back in benefits for the rest of your life, regardless of any personal preferences for pizza or salad, FIFA or yoga etc. Hopefully, this has convinced you enough to go ahead and read the rest of this post below to understand why I believe it is so awesome.


TOUCH TYPING DEFINITION

Touch Typing is the ability to type into a computer relying on touch alone. You never need to look down at the keyboard. You can type using purely muscle memory and no longer use ‘active’ thinking to work out how to type letters and words.

This means that, in the long run, you can type much faster without the constraints of looking down at the keys and flicking back up to the screen to see what you typed. This can let you progress onto skills such as being able to transcribe audio as it happens and to make notes super fast, or just be able to write emails in the dark or whilst talking to someone else you can carry on working.

MY BACKGROUND

I have been typing regularly for the past 20 years. I even did a bit of touch typing at school to help learn the keyboard. I type relatively fast and never really thought of it as something I needed to improve. I have one mate who types crazy fast and when he types he looks like a wizard. But, to be honest, the speed that words appear on his computer never really filled me with envy and I assumed my life was just fine.

My typing style involves using most of my fingers so half way to touch typing. I guess I do glance down at the keyboard a lot just to check where keys are. I have definitely reached a plateau at typing speed but thought that was fine.

After a conversation with Alex Denne on the podcast, he sent me a link to a touch typing tutorial. It had a nice UI and the gamification within the app was cool and for ten minutes a day, I thought why not try it.

BENEFITS

You really don’t know what you don’t know, and I hadn’t realized in the slightest how much my typing style was slowing me down in so many other ways (besides just my words per minute rate).

FEWER ERRORS

Touch typing means you can be watching the screen the whole time for errors, as such I make about 80% fewer errors in my typing straight away. This is amazing in itself and makes my writing and emailing much better, There is less time needed for checking and less stupid errors getting through which make me appear a complete sloppy dumbass

FREE THOUGHT

This is something I really hadn’t expected. But typing with the help of your eyes to check where keys are actual takes a portion of conscious effort dedicated to just the action of typing. By moving the act of typing into the unconscious side of the brain, this frees up your mind to think more openly about other things. This has two great benefits.

When you are no longer worried about typing the immediate words right now you start being able to think about the words ahead. I would say it’s like learning to drive.

CAR DRIVING ANALOGY

When you first try to drive you only look at the road immediately in front of you and your brain is thinking, “crap I need to move the wheel and change gear and change how much I’m pressing the pedals and Oh God 😱 there’s someone coming and I need to go round a corner”. And you generally mess it all up and can never plan ahead and you feel like a noob.

Once you learn to master all these different things and automate them in your sub-conscience you start to look much further ahead and see how the road turns. You can already plan ahead what gear you should be in when arriving and your body starts doing things naturally to fit all the adjustments into your plan as you go along rather than reacting to it. You are able to stay aware of potential hazards and enjoy a pleasant conversation or daydreaming or singing along as you drive along just fine. You are not stuck in an endless cycle of focusing only on the immediate road just ahead of you and scrambling to try and do the right thing right now.

It’s the same when you know how to touch type. You can stop thinking about how to put your finger on the right letter at the right time. You don’t need to focus on where a particular letter is on the keyboard and get each word out one by one. You can think about the entire body of thoughts that are in your head and how you are going to distill it into a sensible text

CREATIVITY

When you are no longer writing with a slight disability, you can dedicate your full brain space to the act of thinking about the sentence you want to write. You can also think more long term as you go along about the story you want to tell and genuinely become a better and more creative writer by removing this limitation.

If you have a great idea, you can write it down immediately instead of focusing on how to type the words to express your idea.

SOCIAL

This sounds silly, but people often try to talk to you whilst your typing and it can end up in a total mess in two ways, either:

  • You stop what you are doing and dedicate your full mental energy to the person. This is very polite but then you might forget what you were doing and have to start again.

  • You try to carry on finishing your train of thought whilst keeping the other person on hold in a weird limbo where you give them enough info to keep them there but don’t really tell them anything useful. You finish off your email or idea but it takes longer because you are also talking to the other person and its all a bit rude and both the writing and conversation suck.

With touch typing, you have more brain space available to finish off your typing whilst also listening to the person and answering them in full “real English” sentences, and you can even look at them whilst you do it. Amazing!

FUTURE THOUGHTS

Increasing accuracy of speech to text and news about projects like Nueralink (brain-machine interface to connect humans and computers) grabbing headlines might make you think there is no point in learning this skill if it will become a relic in the future.

Back to the** “Driving analogy”**.

People may not consider learning to drive in 2018 on the presumption that driverless cars are coming out in the near future and all cars will be driverless. Learning to drive is expensive, time-consuming, dangerous and quite frankly a little embarrassing. So why bother unless you live somewhere rural and really need to transport yourself right now.

But for touch typing, I do not agree with this argument of wasted time due to future tech making the skill pointless.

Firstly, the investment to learn is much smaller. You can learn touch typing for free! And it doesn’t take half as many hours. And you can’t kill yourself or anyone else whilst doing it. 😆

Secondly, there will still be plenty of occasions when the technology isn’t ready or appropriate and traditional “old-school” typing will still apply. Even when once speech-to-text is 100% accurate and people think, hey I can just speak all day and never type, what will actually happen next? We will have to wait 20 years for every office ever to be completely re-designed to let you sit in your own bunker of silence so that you can work with just your computer, instead of working with other people. Except that’s a crap idea and if I’m in an office I want to be able to talk to other people and I really don’t want to hear them talking to their computers all day every day. Every email or document should not be read out loud to the whole office by all my colleagues as they try to decide what to write!

If you’ve ever used Alexa, or Siri or Google Voice etc… then I’m sure you know that feeling when someone starts talking to it and everyone else goes quiet whilst this takes place. It is unnatural and totally not a viable option for real work.

The fact is you will be typing a lot of the time, even if you won’t need to type as much of the time.

And brain-computer interface Neuroprosthetics such as Nueralink despite being super mega awesome fantastic would still take a long time to become practically usable.

You should just embrace the old school version of depositing thoughts from your mind and uploading these thoughts to others via written down text. By learning to touch type and getting familiar with your keyboard, you can make this flow of consciousness as seamless as possible and experience the liberation it provides!


SUMMARY

Touch typing releases brain space by moving conscious thought into the subconscious so you can think more freely about more stuff, and then get that stuff down into writing faster. So you become a more creative and more productive person at the same time.

It doesn’t take long to learn and can be acquired over a month with just 5–10 minutes of active work on it a day. And this time you will quickly get back as you can type and think much faster during your working day.

Not learning to touch type is basically hindering your entire ability to work efficiently if you are a human being who works at all with computers.

So whether you are a writer, CEO, secretary or a student. My number one life hack for 2018 is learning to touch Type.


LINKS

TOUCH TYPING

I really enjoyed www.typingclub.com as a great site to learn touch typing for free. A good introduction to the keyboard and improving your skills and fun gamification. There are plenty of other websites and apps available.

Sam:

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