Knowledge work is often limited by time spent thinking versus doing, but typing fast helps you think faster. Ideas don’t usually come out clearly when they go from our brain to paper—they require some iteration and correction. That means some amount of exploration is required and the act of typing can help you think with your hands.
Thinking with your hands is not something we associate with work that involves a computer, but it can improve problem-solving. Typing is the equivalent of playing with the problem and turning it into something interactive.
Typing fast is a skill that lets you play with ideas more effectively. If you can keep up with the speed of thoughts, write them down, rearrange, and edit quickly, it can be your aid in working through even the most challenging problems.
I would be willing to bet that, two people of equal ability solving the same problem, the one who can type faster will solve the problem faster.
- Another example of writing is thinking
- If typing is thinking with your hands then mechanical keyboards are fountain pens
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I use Alfred to switch between applications using keyboard shortcuts. On average, I use Alfred 127 times per day, mostly to use keyboard shortcuts.
A blog post from GitHub says that their code assistance tool, Copilot, is behind 46% of developers' code, up from 27%. For Java, that number is 61%.
At a certain point, optimizing productivity becomes optimizing for speed of decision making. After all the tools, shortcuts, and hacks, that build up raw speed to get tasks done, you’re left with the cognitive load of decision making. That email you received? It’s a decision disguised as a reply. That Slack message that remains unread? You’re procrastinating because a decision needs to be made that you don’t want to confront.
Speed matters because it lowers the activation energy needed to start a task. If tasks feel quick, the perceived cost of doing it is lower and you are more likely to do it. Conversely, if tasks feel like a slog, you are much less likely to do it because the perceived cost will feel higher.
I’ve been using the Zealio V2 keyswitches on my primary keyboard for around 1.5 years so now is a good time to write about the experience. This has a distinctive feel to every keystroke that feels heavy at first (requiring more force than a standard switch) but ends up feeling crisp and snappy. The reason for that is the tactile design puts the actuation at the very top of the keypress with no pre-travel. Coming from more traditional MX keyswitches (I was using MX clear and MX copper) everything else now feels mushy.
There is a noticeable difference between the speed of the most productive software engineers I’ve worked with and the slowest. What do they do that others don’t? Is it possible to learn how to be faster?