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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 July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

More About Goals Setting

Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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