Voice memos: Capturing thoughts faster than you can think them

Over the years I have gone around and searched for different ways to get things out of my head, on paper, and in front of the right people quickly. The solution I’ve found to be most effective and efficient is the voice memo in terms of getting the ideas out and to other people to collaborate on the quickest. I use Apple’s voice memo on the iphone on an almost a daily basis. In fact, this blog is being dictated into my voice memo and will be transcribed and edited by one of our team members tomorrow to get posted. I really have come to depend on the voice memo as a way to remind myself of things, to capture ad hoc thoughts, because what I’ve found is that its not always convenient to write something down like when I spend time in transit to meetings and on the way to and from work. So when I’m in the car driving by myself and I have a great thought, or at least what I think is a great thought, I pull out my phone and dictate into it a little bit. In that way I can instantly capture something that would otherwise get lost. I think for a great many people, the pace of modern work life is such that if you don’t capture something right as it happens you may never get second chance at it. I mean how many great ideas do you miss by virtue of the fact that you forgot that you had a great idea? Most of us will never know. So I’ve become very aware of just how important it is to make sure that you capture these thoughts as they happen and by using this simple tool I can make sure I don’t fall victim to that.

A lot of times in the evening when I may be too tired or just not feel like taking out a notepad and writing down what I have to do the next day, I can take three minutes and just run through five or six things that I know have to happen and listen to them on the way into work the next morning. During a lunch break, if I’ve been thinking about a topic that I want to write a blog about or that I want to hash out later, I’ll dictate it into a voice memo. Then I’ll either send it on to be transcribed and then edit it after the fact or just send it on to the next person to get their input. Lately I’ve actually, as opposed to composing a email, talked through something into a voice memo which gives me the opportunity to talk myself through a problem and really see my idea stream. If that results in something too all over the place, I’ll usually go back through, listen to it, transcribe it myself, put down the salient points, and pass it on to the next person. Or if I do a halfway decent job and its something that I think the other person can get I just send it along, share it, or pass it forward. I think it’s been a pretty simple and valuable for me. In the cases where I’ve sent on the actual voice memos themselves to team members I try to take care to make it short enough that it will get played through and I try not to send anything that is so all over the map that it would take extensive note taking skills, followed by extensive deconstruction in order to make sense of it.

It’s interesting as I’ve done more blogs via voice memo dictation how different you talk to an idea as opposed to how you write to an idea. I don’t know if it’s making me better at speaking or better at writing but it’s certainly making me more a lot more aware of the differences. But in the end, it’s just an incredibly powerful tool. Part of what makes it so powerful is its availability. The one thing that almost everyone always has with them in the modern age is a mobile phone. It never leaves your side, its always on, you’ve got a record of all the voice memos that you have previously, and if you take a little time you can categorize them fairly well. I know that I’ve gone back and played back certain memos and it’s been a good way to hang on to ideas and again it makes it very very easy to share with other people. So in the era of voice to text and so many advances with regard to how we collaborate, I’m curious how many other people are out there still using voice memo? Whether its on an iphone like I use, a dictatophone, or even dictating to some type of a scribe, how many people are regularly using that to communicate ideas, to condense their thoughts, or just get things out of their head and out to other people?

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