Notes while on the road

I don’t know about you, but this happens to me all the time.

I’m driving and I have a great idea that will really help the business.

I see a truck that belongs to a company that seems to be the perfect potential customer.

There is a sign on a building & I think that I must check this out.

Listening to the BBC, I want to check out the website of the program to learn more.

I speak to someone on my phone and need to remember the appointment I just made.


Maybe you have a great memory and can remember all these things. I confess, I can’t! While I’m driving, there are ideas going through my head the whole time and every now and again, some are actually worth remembering.

So how can I do this? One thing I learned years ago is that taking notes and driving isn’t a great idea. Obviously this is an opportunity for technology to help.

I’ve tried several ways to do this in the past – including those little dictation tape recorders and, more recently, recorders in my phone that will grab a thought and send to me as an email attachment. I still use one of these from time to time, Note2Self from Alex at WebIS.

The problem with having an audio recording is that the information is not in a format I can really import into my calendar or my task management system – more work is needed to transpose this when I get time.

Being a 21st Century guy, I’ve wanted something better and more convenient, so I’m currently using two voice transcription systems that will take my speech and enter it as text into applications I use.

The reason I use two is that neither works 100% and I’ve been trying to decide for months which is the closest to what I need. I still have not decided.

One of these is Jott.

Jott comes in two versions (actually more than two, but I don’t use some of the newer things they’ve come out with) one of which is free, the other has a monthly subscription fee. The free one allows you to enter information into quite a few applications, but not Toodledo which is my task management system. I’m therefore a paid subscriber.

Currently I use Jott to enter tasks into Toodledo, appointments into Google Calendar, Tweets into Twitter and I can also update my Facebook status. The program has a lot more possibilities, but my needs are pretty baseic.

It works by dialing the access number and saying the name of the service and what the message is. For example, I could call Jott and at the prompt say “Google Calendar” then “Dinner with Caren at Georgio’s next Tuesday at 8.00 PM.”

In just a few minutes, tha appointment is in Google Calendar, then my iPhone and Outlook because of the sync I have set up.

Dial2Do is remarkably similar, except it is free. I also use Dial2Do to send text messages to people in my contact list.

I don’t know why, but some days these two systems work better than other days. Sometimes Jott will be more accurate, other times Dial2Do will be. This is why I am still messing with both of them.

Obviously the accuracy of the transcription is the crucial thing and I’d say they both work about 75% for me. This is fine if I want to capture a thought in Toodledo. There is usually enough that makes sense for me to remember what the note is about. Updating Twitter or Facebook is interesting, because I never quite know what is going to be typed – makes it an adventure, but is also rather annoying when the system gets it way wrong. Maybe these products are optimized for American accents and they don’t like my Queen’s English.

I’m hoping that as these systems (and others that might appear) improve, the voice recognition will get better. It still beats trying to remember all these jumbled thoughts and ideas in my over extended memory.

How do you capture thoughts when you can’t write them down? Is there something better that I’ve missed?

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