Do you think better out loud? Do you consider yourself a verbal processor? Is it easier to get your thoughts out while talking than while writing? Is talking just faster than writing for you? Perhaps you do your best thinking while walking, but typing while walking is hard (to say the least).

If so, I want to talk about an old school method for getting your thoughts on paper that technology makes easy to bring back: dictation!

No, I’m not talking about bosses dictating memos to their admins (although in the late 90s I definitely had a boss who would dictate his emails to me over the phone and I’d type them up and send them off!). I’m talking about using speech-to-text functionality to make your life easier.

Ok, how?

  • GSuite Speech-to-Text
    • If you’re using a Gmail or Gsuite based email address, you have access to Google Drive. And if you have access to Google Drive, you can speak directly into your Docs and Slides and Google will do the typing for you.
    • Here’s how to access the feature.
      • Docs: Click Tools > Voice Typing > Click to Speak
      • Slides: Click Tools > Voice Type Speaker Notes > Click to Speak
  • Task apps with voice entry
    • My favorite task app, TickTick, allows voice entry for tasks and comments. This makes updating tasks, or adding tasks while walking around, a breeze. Just tap the microphone button on the task entry field and speak to add.
    • Asana, another popular task app, has voice recognition as well.
  • Siri, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant Integrations
    • Many apps that don’t have native voice recognition can be integrated with Siri, Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, so that you can add tasks by speech, from where ever you are in your house, or with your mobile device.
    • provides 600 minutes of free transcription per month for individuals.
    • will transcribe your meetings or uploaded audio and give you back a text file.

This sounds cool, but how will I actually use this??

  • Capturing tasks
    • As mentioned above, being able to enter tasks into your system by voice reduces the friction of getting tasks into the system. And let’s face it, how often are you out of arm’s reach from your phone? If you phone is there, you’re just 1 click away from entering a task by voice so your brain can let go and continue to focus on whatever you were doing.
  • Task updates
    • I always recommend taking a brief moment to document what you’ve just completed in your task system, before moving onto the next task. This way, you don’t need to waste time trying to remember later what you’ve done. Still sometimes there’s friction around these updates. Being able to speak your update, and have it automatically timestamped, takes just a couple of seconds. And then your system is maintained with very little effort on your part.
  • Speaker notes for slide decks
    • Speaker notes are often incomplete, or non-existent. Writing speaker notes feels like an extra step we don’t have time for. (You’ll just wing it, right?) Or, your notes are unnatural, because you don’t speak the way we write, and that trips you up during the presentation. Instead, enter your speaker notes by voice and they’ll be much closer to what you actually plan to say. In fact, you can even stand up and walk around practicing your presentation while Google is typing what you say. Practice and notes at the same time; double duty!
  • First drafts (of email, documents, scripts, etc.)
    • Sometimes it’s hard to get that first draft out. What if you could just speak it? Once you get our your initial thoughts, then go ahead and edit what you’ve written into the format in which you need it. Often our first draft contains too much info, and we try to edit as we write, which slows us down. Speak first, edit second.
  • Meeting notes
    • It can be stressful to run a meeting while making sure to take great notes. If you use speech to text functionality to transcribe meetings, you can easily pull out the notes later without worrying that you’ll miss something. and Zoom have even teamed up specifically for this purpose; check out live meeting notes here.

Have you found an interesting way to integrate dictation or transcription into your workflows?

If so, tell me how!