This is part 22 of 30 in the Hammertime Sequence. Click here for the intro.
At some point around the end of high school, being fast became unfashionable. When did this happen?
Why do we channel so much more energy into doing more difficult things, instead of doing simple things faster? How much faster could you do your job? Two times faster? Five times?
Instead of I want to be stronger, say I want to be faster.
If you pay attention to speed, you might just find a way to do a whole week’s worth of work in five minutes.
Day 22: Speed
Here are three exercises to help you find that rush of mind working on overdrive:
- Typeracer. Play this game for five minutes. How much faster did you get at typing? What did you learn?
- Go on YouTube and watch a talk at 2x speed for five minutes. If you’re having trouble following, turn on subtitles. Notice that this is possible.
- The Arithmetic Game. Play three rounds of this with standard settings. How much faster did you get?
Here are three principles I’ve extracted from using Yoda Timers to do everything faster.
1. Mistakes Are Fatal
When I first played Typeracer, I started out at a measly 70 wpm and worked my way up to around 90 by just trying harder. Eventually, I hit a plateau because I was still constantly making typos and backspacing. Each mistake cost the time of four or five characters. The backspace key was my Achilles heel.
That’s why I forced myself to slow down and get everything right the first time. At first, this lowered my wpm, but with a bit of work, my fingers felt more nimble and intentional. I cut down the number of typos I made by a factor of 4 or so – it turns out there’s a handful of sequences of keys I constantly get wrong or out of order. My wpm skyrocketed to 120.
In real life, mistakes are even costlier. Getting sick is way costlier than having good hygiene. In programming, it’s common knowledge that testing and bug-fixing takes at least three times as long as writing code in the first place. In math, months of paper-writing can go down the drain when you finally notice a severe and unfix-able logical misstep. At the Olympics, every single mistake will cost you the medal.
If you want to be faster, you must have zero tolerance for even the slightest errors, and slowing down (at first) to practice perfectionism will be worth it. Get it right the first time.
2. Speed Limits are in the Mind
Everyone has a rough idea of how long things have to take. Solving a hard research problem always takes at least a month, right? Writing a paper should take at least an hour, right?
When I first started playing the Arithmetic Game for middle school MathCounts training, my high score was close to 20. After a few months of dedicated training, my record hit 90, making it onto the leader-board of the time.
For any given task, do not assume you’re doing it anywhere close to your real speed limit. It used to take me at least four hours to write a blog post this length. This one clocks out in just under forty minutes.
3. Speed is Easier than Strength
In intellectual work, it’s much much easier to get twice as fast than twice as good. It’s much easier to multiply twice as quickly than to learn to solve harder problems. It’s much easier to type twice as much content than to write twice as well.
Human beings are supremely good at training rote tasks to maximum efficiency. Take advantage of that. Learn to read twice as fast, write twice as fast, talk twice as fast, walk twice as fast, watch videos twice as fast. I’ve been watching videos at 2x speed for as long as I can remember, and I can’t even tolerate regular speed anymore. Once you habituate to going faster, you reap all this free energy that was just lying around while you were waiting.
Speed is underrated. Short training sessions focused on speed will create lasting impacts on your productivity.
Share your proudest speed record. Fast is fashionable again!