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How to Get Things Done with Jott

How to Get Things Done with Jott
How to Use Jott to Get Things Done

I first tried out Jott last year, and was really impressed with what it could do. You call their number, say something into the phone, and it sends it as a text message back to you. And it works — aside from a few odd names and strange words, its transcriptions are pretty much spot on. Apparently they run your voice message through a speech-to-text engine and then run it by a human operator for double-checking.

However they make it work, it’s pretty slick. But I couldn’t figure out much to do with it at the time. I’m not the kind of person who would leave myself voicemail to remind myself to do things — I carry a Palm for that. And a paper notebook. So I let my Jott account gather dust for a while.

In the last few months, though, Jott’s introduced their Jott Links service, which allows you to use Jott to add items to your todo list, send messages to other people, even blog using their service. And it works — so well, in fact, that connection with Jott Links was one of my primary criteria in selecting an online task list manager (I ended up with Toodledo).

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All it takes is a little set-up, first in your Jott account, then on your phone, and you can start Jotting things to any number of online services. Here’s how.

First things first: send yourself a message

The easiest thing to do with Jott is to send yourself a message — useful for reminders and quick collection of random thoughts while on the go.

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  1. Sign up for a Jott account. You’ll enter your phone’s telephone number, which acts as your username — any call from that phone number goes to your account.
  2. Add a speed-dial entry to your phone for Jott. The number is 1 (866) JOTT-123 [1 866-568-8123, for those without standard phone keypads]. I have my Treo set to call Jott whenever I press and hold the “J” key.
  3. Call Jott.
  4. The operator will ask who you want to send a message to. Say “Myself”.
  5. Record your message.
  6. Hang up.
  7. A few minutes later, a text message will arrive with your transcribed message. Goggle at the wonder that is today’s technology.

Send yourself a reminder

You can have Jott send you a text message 15 minutes before an event.

  1. Call Jott.
  2. When the operator asks who you want to send a message to, say “Reminder”.
  3. Jott says “What time?” and you reply with the time.
  4. Jott says “What day” and you give a date, or say “today” or “tomorrow”.
  5. When you hear the beep, record what you want to be reminded of.
  6. Hang up.
  7. 15 minutes before the event, you’ll get a text message with a transcription of your recorded message.
  8. Get somewhere on time, for a change.

Send text messages (SMS) with your voice

  1. Login to your Jott account.
  2. Add contacts under the “Contacts” tab. You can either enter them one at a time, or import them using either Plaxo or by uploading an exported CSV file from Outlook.
  3. Call Jott.
  4. When the operator asks who you want to send a message to, say the name of the person you want to send a message to. Speak clearly!
  5. The operator repeats the name back to you. Since the operator is a computer, she will say it in a funny way. Don’t laugh! Instead, if it’s correct, say “yes”, or say “no” to try again.
  6. Record your message.
  7. Hang up.
  8. A few minutes later, your friend will receive your message, neatly transcribed into standard English. They won’t have any idea what it means, though, since they only read Textish.

Send a text message to a bunch of people at the same time

  1. Log into your Jott account.
  2. Click the “Groups” tab.
  3. Click “New Groups” and walk through the wizard. You’ll now have a group whose name functions exactly as any other contact. When you call Jott, instead of saying the name of a person, you’ll say the name of the whole group, e.g. “Family” or “Friends”.
  4. Call Jott.
  5. Record your message as usual.
  6. A few minutes later, everyone in the group will receive the message at the same time. They’ll look at each other in awe, wondering how you typed so fast!

Organize your messages to yourself

If you send a lot of messages to yourself, you might want to create folders to organize them all.

  1. Log into your Jott account.
  2. On the main page (“My Jotts”), click “New Folder”.
  3. Name your folder.
  4. When you call in, instead of saying “myself”, say the name of the folder you want to send a message to.

So, for example, maybe you want to keep track of your expenses. While you’re out and about, call Jott every time you spend money, and send the amount and the nature of the purchase to your “expenses” folder. That seems like a good idea.

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Jott Links: Send messages to other services

This is where Jott gets really cool. You can use Jott to have spoken messages transcribed and sent to a bunch of online services. At the moment, you can use Jott with any of these services:

Search with Jott

  • Amazon: Look up items and prices. Sends an email with results, no text message.
  • Zillow: Get housing price estimates.
  • Recommendr: Product reviews and recommendations.
  • mosio: Jott a question and it’s answered by real people.
  • Gumiyo: Online classifieds.
  • Trapster: Share speed traps you come across, or find out if there are any in your area.

Blog with Jott

  • Blogger
  • WordPress.com: Works with WordPress.com hosted blogs only; not available for your own WordPress blogs (yet?)
  • TypePad: Also only for hosted blogs.
  • LiveJournal
  • tumblr
  • twitter
  • jaiku
  • Yahoo Groups: Not exactly blogging, but this doesn’t fit anywhere else.

Get Things Done with Jott

  • Schedule events: You can send events to Google Calendar and 30Boxes.
  • Add tasks to your todo list: Send tasks to Remember the Milk, vitalist, or Toodledo.
  • Keep track of expenses: Record your purchases with expensr.
  • Send yourself reminders: Tell Sandy what you need to be reminded of.

You have to activate each of these separately, which usually amounts to going to the “Jott Links” tab in your account and selecting the service you want to add, which sends you to the service’s website where you have to confirm your request. That’s about it.

Check the “send response” box, and Jott will send you a confirmation message saying it’s added whatever you sent to the service you sent it to, which is nice. You can send about 1000 characters, which is about 200 words or a page of written text, to most services, which should be plenty.

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Use the syntax you would normally use. To send a task to Toodledo, for instance, I just say “Check on mom’s cats on Tuesday”. It doesn’t add the date, but that’s ok. To send a reminder to Sandy, be sure to use “Remind me” or “Remember”, like this: “Remind me to check on mom’s cats on Tuesday at 3:00 pm.”

What should work but apparently doesn’t

You know how you can send emails to Google Docs or Zoho Documents and they’re converted into word processor documents? For some reason, can’t get Jotts emailed to those services to come up as documents. You’d think it would work, but it doesn’t. And I’m not sure if it’s because of something Jott does weird with emails, or (more likely) the incredibly spotty nature of Google Docs’ and Zoho’s email parsing, which doesn’t work on half the emails I send anyway.

Be more productive with Jott

If you find yourself away from home or your office a lot, or if you’re just more comfortable dictating than typing, getting familiar with Jott can be a real help in getting stuff done. I doubt if I could have moved to an online todo list if I didn’t know I could enter tasks from anywhere using my mobile phone. With more and more services adding Jott Links, it may be only a matter of time before your favorite service is Jott-enabled (I’m talking to you, Adobe Buzzword!) and there are already plenty of services to use with Jott if you aren’t already tied to a service.

If you’ve dreamed of a future where you talk to your computer and it does stuff, it seems like your dreams are starting to come true. You can’t do everything with Jott just yet, but there are a surprising number of things you can do. And best of all, it works. Really well.

Got any Jott hacks to share with us? Let us know in the comments — especially if you’ve gotten the whole “Jott to document editor” thing worked out.

More by this author

How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide) The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain) The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works) Building Relationships: 11 Rules for Self-Promotion

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Last Updated on September 18, 2019

How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

What to Write Down

Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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Dates of Events

Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

Names of People

Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

Theories or Frameworks

Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

Definitions

Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

Arguments and Debates

Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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Images

Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

Other Stuff

Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

Your Own Questions

Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

1. Outlining

Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

2. Mind-Mapping

For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

Here’s the idea:

In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

3. The Cornell System

The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

The Bottom Line

I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

More About Note-Taking

Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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