Niklaus Gerber

September 20, 2022

How I type and listen faster and why it matters

Improving these core skills will save you time and make you more productive.

Learning something new and exciting is something most people love doing. But reflecting on the last three years, I learned a valuable lesson. You should spend a reasonable amount of time improving skills you have already mastered. I spend a big junk of my day writing and consuming content. I understood that if I could type faster and consume more content, I would become more efficient in getting through my day.

Becoming a better typer and mastering speed listening helped me use my limited time more efficiently. I am sharing with you what worked well and how I improved.

Becoming a better typer

If you increase your typing speed by only 20%, you can save up to 35 minutes per day. That equals a phenomenal 213 hours per year. Considering that most people have about 10 hours of active time per day, you could save up to 21 days each year. It is not just writing long essays. Every interaction with a computer becomes faster, and you will be more productive. There are a few things that will help you type faster. Besides knowing how to type correctly with ten fingers, there are a few little tricks that improve your speed.

What happens if you are typing and you get a letter wrong in the word? Most of us will hit delete until we remove the error and rewrite from that point. If you use backspace more than twice in a row, there is probably a better way to do it. If I, for example, start to write:

I am very tallented at

and I realised that I wanted to write talented; I would need to hit nine times backspace and then write ented at, another eight keystrokes. That sets me back a total of seventeen keystrokes. I would press OPTION+BACKSPACE (Apple) / CTRL+BACKSPACE (Windows) twice, which removes at and tallented. Now I will write talented at. I saved four keystrokes. That does not sound like much, but over a day, with thousands of words written, it will add up.

Besides small hacks that improve your typing workflow, you should plan weekly typing training. 10FastFingers is a free app that will help you to improve your typing speed. I recommend doing once a weekly session of ten to fifteen minutes. You will be amazed at how quickly you will improve your typing speed. Lastly, you want to stop using the mouse whenever possible. Avoiding using the mouse to open or switch programs or doing routine tasks like copying and pasting will improve your productivity.

If you want to learn some new shortcuts, you will find an overview of Mac and Windows.

Speed listening

I am not a big reader, but I love audio content. I listen to audiobooks on Audible multiple times weekly and go through my podcasts daily. Many people do not know that you can speed up the playback of your podcasts and your audiobooks. At 1.5x speed, a one-hour podcast becomes 40 minutes; speed listening at that pace would turn 15 hours' worth of content into 10.

Cranking up the speed to 1.5x or higher might be odd initially. For many, it might be impossible to understand what people are saying. The average person speaks about 150 words per minute, but we listen to around 300 words per minute. That means we listen twice as fast as the average person says. Furthermore, becoming a fast listener was easier than improving my reading speed. 

I currently listen at 2x to 2.5x for podcasts and 1.5x for audiobooks (I love to enjoy the stories). Going back to average speed feels painfully slow. I also appreciate that I can consume more content in the same amount of time. Before speed listening, that was just not possible. The higher speed also helps to keep focus. Your brain needs to work hard to keep up with the higher rate. When I am listening 2x or faster, I rarely catch my mind wandering off.

The best way to get into speed listening is to find the best speed to comprehend everything. You will need to adapt that for different content. Some are fast speakers, some speak slower, some articulate very clearly, and some do not. Once you find the speed that works for you, I recommend listening for five to ten minutes. After that, go back to 1x to feel the difference. You will see that your brain adapted quickly to a faster rate. 

The next step is to increase your listening speed slightly above comfort. So, if you naturally listen at 1.7x, maybe speed it up to 2x, 3x, or 2.4x.

It may seem fast, but your brain will start getting used to the higher pace. The best way to find this speed is to slowly go up until you can't comprehend the content anymore. You will slow down a little bit, and as before, it will feel much more natural. When I started listening faster, it took only about five to ten hours to go from 1.5x to 2x and beyond.

Typing faster and improving your listening speed seem like two insignificant skills. If you reflect on how much time you are spending typing and how often you are driving, cycling or walking but can not read a book, you will see how investing in these skills will make you more productive. It does not take much effort, but even the slightest improvement will significantly impact you. I can only recommend it.

About Niklaus Gerber

My thoughts on leadership, life, productivity, design, and innovation.