Voice Dictation

In my effort to use my computer less and my mobile device more as my primary work tool, I been to relying on voice dictation more than I do typing.

There are a few things that I like about this approach.

It is faster. Speaking is way quicker than using my thumbs to type something out on the keyboard. So, if I need to get something out fast, speaking into my phone is going to be the best way to do it.

Speaking into my phone helps me to connect more with what I’m actually saying. I find this very similar to what it’s like writing my words down on paper with a pen. I have to be more thoughtful about what I’m saying.

It allows me to practice communicating verbally. This is incredibly important especially with the fact that our workforce is now 100% remote, and it’s very easy to rely on written communication.

I find my thoughts flow more freely out of my head when I’m speaking into my phone. Sometimes I’ll get into a topic that I’m trying to communicate to one of my team members, and I’ll be able to express what I mean more clearly because I’m not constantly editing what I’m saying. I’m allowing what I mean to just flow. I’m a verbal processor, and I work well this way.

One limitation with dictation, especially with the iPhone, is that there’s a time limit on how long you can speak into your keyboard. One way I get around this is by using the Drafts app by a company called Agile Bits. I’m using Drafts 5, which is their newest offering. There is a feature to do voice dictation directly into the application instead of the keyboard. There’s a button that you press with a little microphone on it which allows you to speak for as long as you want. What’s neat is I can actually leave this running in the background. If there’s a thought I’m trying to get out, and I can’t get it clearly get it out of my head. When there’s a long pause in my speech, it will actually add in a special set of characters, so I know that there was silence at that point.

Another limitation is that you have to remember to add punctuation verbally. So, at the end of a sentence you actually have to say the word period. If you need a comma, or an ellipsis, or any other form of punctuation you need to say it out loud.

Finally, dictation is not perfect yet. There are frequently words that my phone doesn’t understand. For example, it can’t tell the difference between writing and riding. I can see this being a major problem with people with very strong accents. Still, it’s much faster and way more convenient than trying to type out everything. From my experience this is an area that is getting better all the time.

So, if you struggle with typing in your phone, definitely experiment with voice dictation. Just like anything else, it does take practice. What you’ll find in the end is that it is a more convenient way of getting words from your head into your phone.

One final note: this entire blog post was originally transcribed using voice dictation and the drafts app. I then put it into another app on my phone called Ulysses where I fixed typos, added links, and ultimately published to my blog.

Also published on Medium.