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Increase Productivity and Relieve Pain with the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard

Increase Productivity and Relieve Pain with the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard
Keyboard

    If you have been looking for a way to increase your productivity without having to train your mind to think or behave in a completely new way, then many will point you to the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard. Well, they’re wrong, as I discovered; the time and effort to re-train your mind is quite extensive, but the time spent is worthwhile!

    If you’re prepared to make some sacrifices – or rather, put up with some inconvenience – Dvorak can certainly save you some medical bills and some time.

    The History of the Dvorak Layout

    In the 1860s, Mr. Christopher Sholes developed the first commercially successful typewriter. When it came to the keyboard layout, he researched the most efficient key patterns. Unfortunately, when it came time to type on this layout, at any decent speed the machine would jam up – the key mechanisms would get in a tangle. To get around the mechanical limitations of the machine Sholes simply redistributed the keys so that the more commonly used letters were separated across the keyboard – effectively solving the problem by slowing the typist down.

    The typewriter eventually became a commercial success, but by the time Sholes rectified his engineering shortcomings and proposed a better keyboard layout, the bigwigs selling the product weren’t interested in changing it, fearing that would hurt sales.

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    Fast-forward to the 1930s when August Dvorak became fed up with the inefficiency of the standard QWERTY layout and set out to engineer a better keyboard that met the demands of modern typists. He studied a number of things, such as letter frequencies, physiology, and ergonomics to design what came to be known as the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard.

    Almost eighty years later, Dvorak’s keyboard layout is still rarely used, despite the numerous problems with popular layouts such as QWERTY and AZERTY. Dvorak died a poor man with his faith in humanity shattered:

    I’m tired of trying to do something worthwhile for the human race, they simply don’t want to change!

    – August Dvorak

    Benefits of the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard

    One of the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard’s greatest innovations was putting all the most frequently used consonants on the right hand side of the home row, and all the vowels on the left hand side. Every word has a vowel, and with QWERTY that means you’ve got to sprawl all over the keyboard to type almost all of them – the only vowel on the home row is the letter A.

    By putting all those keys on one row, the typist has to move about less and can type a huge number of words all on the one row. This means:

    • Less strain on the wrist, and
    • The average typing speed increases

    It’s not only an ideal layout for those experiencing wrist pain after working with computers all day long, but also ideal for those who want to squeeze the most out of each minute.

    My Experience with Dvorak

    At the beginning of 2007, I began experiencing pain in my wrists. For a while I just ignored it, but when I realized it wasn’t going to magically disappear I decided to do something about it. I figured it was obviously because, as a writer, I spend most days doing nothing but typing.

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    My first investment in 2007 was the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000. I set this up with my Mac mini (the irony was not lost on my wife, who still taunts me to this day) and within a week my wrists were feeling better; my left wrist was pain-free, but the effects on my right hand were, while existent, quite minimal.

    In October, 2007, I purchased a Logitech VX Revolution mouse, designed to be a comfortable ergonomic mouse. It’s a notebook mouse that’s not too small, so I figured I could use it at home or take it on the road. It does a good job as a powerful (though somewhat overpriced) rodent, but the effect on my wrist was again minimal.

    My search for some pain relief was what brought me to the next stage, my obsession with productivity aside.

    Three months ago I rearranged my iBook’s keys and started learning Dvorak myself. While the layout has been refuted in studies as having little to not effect, I say: screw the studies. The pertinent wrist pain I was experiencing has all but disappeared, and I can safely say that I get more writing done each day. Whether that’s because it’s simply easier and less stressful, or because the Dvorak layout is by nature more productive, I can’t say for certain – the important thing is that it works.

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    Some Tips for Learning Dvorak Faster

    If you type frequently, you’re going to have to prepare for this change mentally. As a writer, I spend most of my time typing every day, so I was expecting some annoying disruption to my usual way of working – but what I experienced was totally unforeseen. At first I felt as if I had been muted – as though someone had ripped out my tongue and throat too, cutting me off from my primary method of communication. It’s very disconcerting and feels a lot worse than it sounds. I think I learned something, in some small way, of how those with communication impairing disabilities feel.

    Along the way I picked up some tips for getting over this incredibly uncomfortable phase:

    • Don’t do any QWERTY typing for at least the first three months. It is possible to be fast and efficient with both later on, but trying this from the get-go will only hinder your progress. I never completely gave up QWERTY during my transition because typing is my bread and butter and I couldn’t afford that much of a disruption; this decision did slow down the process. When I spent extended time away from QWERTY, using only Dvorak, I experienced significant gains in speed.
    • If you can afford the time and handle the frustration, don’t change the keys on your keyboard around. Print an image of the layout and keep it above your monitor, so you’re forced to refer to something at eye-level as you learn; this allows you to start touch typing much faster.
    • Do use a touch typing tutor that supports the Dvorak layout; if you dedicate yourself to learning the layout instead of just picking it up on the fly, you’ll have a much better chance of success. I suggest Keybr.

    The most important tip is to relax. It’s going to pretty disturbing at first if you’re anywhere near as dependent on your keyboard as I am, so you just have to remind yourself to take it easy. In a couple of days you’ll be getting the hang of it; in a week, you’ll be typing pretty reasonably, and within a month or so you’ll start to see your initial speeds return. Know that they will come with time and patience, and don’t stress over it.

    I do have to stress that investing in an ergonomic hardware set up helped a lot, and that if you’re considering Dvorak for pain relief or ergonomic reasons you should get these things in order too. However, if you find yourself unable to afford the ridiculous prices of some of this equipment, changing your keyboard layout is a good start.

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    More by this author

    Joel Falconer

    Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

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    Last Updated on March 31, 2020

    Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

    Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

    Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

    Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

    There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

    Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

    Why We Procrastinate After All?

    We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

    Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

    Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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    To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

    If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

    Is Procrastination Bad?

    Yes it is.

    Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

    Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

    Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

    It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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    The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

    Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

    For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

    A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

    Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

    Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

    How Bad Procrastination Can Be

    Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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    After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

    One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

    That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

    Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

    In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

    You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

    More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article: 8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

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    Procrastination, a Technical Failure

    Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

    It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

    It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

    Learn more about how to fix your procrastination problem here: What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)

    Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

    Reference

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