Touch-typing and habits
Mastering tools is a must-have in any profession. Can you imagine a construction worker trying to find a button to start a drill each time he needs to use it? Or a violinist trying to find appropriate strings while performing Beethoven's Violin Sonata no.9? It comes striking to me that so many software engineers with years of experience still struggle with something they do many times every day – typing.
Learning touch typing was a life changer for me, and I was the same. I always postponed practicing it, so after a few years of working in the industry, I almost developed my way of typing – not that efficient but still – using more than two fingers.
One day I've said enough is enough and started practicing a few minutes every day.
You can see I suck on creating habits and had a few approaches to practice sessions, but the 1st of August 2016 was the day for me.
After intensive practice weeks, you can see how the frequency of practicing has dropper but has not stopped, which is a key to keep up your fingers in good shape.
I still do a few minutes of practice every day after those four years. I can say it becomes a habit of mine. It became my first conscious habit where the end goal was to get some skill.
I've tried many times to build up a good habit and failed miserably, I've wanted to read a few minutes a week, do learning for a few minutes, learn languages. The problem was that I was not using those skills in my day to day routine (I've been focusing on too much at once too); hence the only time I was exposed to those skills were those few minutes a day. And forgot about it for the rest of the day.
Some learnings from keeping my habits for a few years:
I've learned a lot about myself and how should I approach any task that I'd like to become a habit of mine (I successfully do WaniKani lessons for three years now almost every day), most important thing is to use the skills you practice also outside the practice sessions (even when you use it inefficiently for the time being)
The habit should have a practical influence on how you work or live, having vague habit as “reading 10 minutes every day” does not work for me at all as I cannot see a clear goal of doing so (“getting wiser” is as vague as the habit itself). On the other hand, “learn how Ruby works under the hood by reading Ruby Under the Microscope book” makes much more sense to me. I have to quantify the habit to see the progress.
As long as the feeling of accomplishment is excellent (especially if you keep your streak for 365 days), the burden you put on yourself by forcing a habit is even more critical. It can undermine the whole plan – keep in mind you are doing it for fun and profit, not because it is a punishment. If you have to take a break, take it.
Build up your habits and more importantly use skills learned, otherwise there is no point of having a habit at all.