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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.

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Last Updated on October 15, 2019

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

Why we procrastinate after all

We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

So, is procrastination bad?

Yes it is.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

How bad procrastination can be

Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article:

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8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

Procrastination, a technical failure

Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

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