One of the best productivity tips I've found—courtesy of David Allen's book, Getting Things Done—is keeping "buckets" for your ideas. In other words, you want to have reliable, fail-proof system to record your thoughts whenever or where ever you might find yourself. I've tried a number of different capture tools and methods: from the notepad "suckered" onto my windshield to the mini-digital recorder that took 7 key presses to record a message. Obviously, some worked better than others, so today I've got five simple-to-use capture devices that will make sure you're prepared when your next big idea strikes.Before we get into the tools, a few strategies are helpful.
- When you pick a tool, stick with it. Nothing is worse for your productivity than having your notes and ideas scattered all over the place.
- Plan on forming a habit to "check in" with your tool every day. In other words, you don't want to be reminded of an idea for your Monday presentation the following Friday.
- Record all of your ideas—big or small. It's better to throw out an idea you later find to be unimportant than to forget an idea you need later.
Here are the top 5 capture tools that you can utilise whether near a computer, away or driving a vehicle.
Voiceminder lets you record notes practically anywhere—while driving a car, riding on the bus, in a meeting. You simply hit your record button to start a recording, then hit the same button to end the recording. But unlike other capture devices, this one "pings" you by emailing your voice note right to your inbox.
It is by far my favourite capture method as nothing gets lost and since I spend a good part of my days in email, so I never miss a reminder.
2. Mini cassette recorder—This may seem old fashioned to some, but there's method to my madness. You see, the problem with many of the handheld digital recorders is many don't make note recordings that you can understand. What good is recording a series of ideas or notes that sound like the intercom at Burger King?
As opposed to the newer digital note recorders, the latest mini-cassettes are tuned for better voice recording. This allows you to understand what you said as you navigate through traffic.
There are some in the Olympus and Sony line that are compatible with Dragon Naturally Speaking, which allows some people to transcribe their notes automatically. Voice-to-speech via a secondary device like tape recorder is a nice theory on paper, but I haven't had much luck with it myself.
3. Palm/Pocket PC/iPOD standard recorder—Another tip for handheld owners is the built in voice recording features of the devices. With iPods you can get an add-on that lets you record messages for later retrieval. However, recording messages in this way is not as handy as Voiceminder, because you have to eventually navigate to the recording and play it back.
This can be a problem if you forget to check your notes. So if you go with this tool, make sure you schedule a time every day to check in on your voice notes.
Usage : basically record your note and then look it up later by browsing to it on your device. Again, not as quick and easy as email, but gets the job done.
4. Call your own voicemail—This is one of the simplest capture tools you can use. Pick up a phone and call your answering machine or voice mail and leave yourself a message. It's quick and dirty and gets the job done. When you get to the house or office the blinking light lets you know you've got a message.
Some of the advantages of calling your own voicemail are there is no software to buy and install. You don't have to rely on an Internet connection or have email working. But it's decidedly low-tech, which may be a disadvantage to some.
5. Send yourself a text message with Jott—As discussed on Lifehacker back in February, the Jott service lets you call and leave yourself a voicemail message. But with a twist. It will transpose your voice message to text and email it to yourself. It is much like Voiceminder above with a transpose your words feature making it cutting edge.
However, I had a few issues with Jott. By signing up for an account, they send you a lot of email solicitations. Also, it could be just my deep voice but I only got about an 80% recognition rate on the notes I sent myself.
But overall, it's a handy service that is very similar to my favourite capture tool which is Voiceminder. If they get the speech recognition down, it will trump Voiceminder as the best capture tool.
But no matter which capture tool you pick, make sure you stick with it. Don't divide your efforts between two or more capture devices because then you'll have to track down your notes.