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Get Organized!

DR, FRANK BUCK: Voice input: The easiest way to trap new tasks (COLUMN)

The phones in our pockets have tremendous capabilities. The features get better every year. That little phone has replaced the GPS and the camera. It serves as our address book, and for many of us, our calendar. With an Internet connection, that device puts the world's knowledge at our fingertips.

But they have one shortcoming.

The terrible thing about our smartphones is input. Let’s face it, typing with two thumbs on a piece of glass is no picnic. You may know a 15-year old who can compose a text with one hand on the phone in his pocket while looking you in the eye and carrying on a conversation. But for every example like that, you find 100 examples of frustrated people trying to compose a three-sentence email.

I've been a part of the digital organization arena since 2001. Back then, I started with a Palm synced to my computer. The journey took me through a special alphabet (called “Graffiti”) using a stylus on a plastic screen. Then came the BlackBerry with its mouse-sized keyboard. Now, we're typing with two thumbs on a piece of glass.

But, the whole time, something else has been getting better … voice input.

One magic key

Getting good with voice input is a skill well worth the little bit of time required to master it. 

Look at your device’s keyboard. Do you see a key with a microphone icon? Open a new email. Press that little microphone key and begin speaking. Your voice turns into text. Have another thought to insert into the middle of the paragraph? Touch the screen to move the cursor to the desired point. Tap the microphone and begin speaking.

To-do list

My favorite use for voice input is adding to my to-do list. 

How often do you grab the nearest scrap of paper to jot a new task? How many times do you take the chance you'll remember the task and remember it at the right time? If so, how much time do you spend worrying about what you forgot? It's no wonder things fall through the cracks and we find ourselves so stressed. 

Open your task app of choice, but don't torture yourself with the two-thumbs routine. Hit the microphone key and talk. Using the free version of an app such as Remember The Milk (; you can not only speak the task, but specify when you want to see that task again.

Say, "Call Bob Thursday at 2 p.m." Not only does the task go into Remember The Milk, but it appears with other tasks scheduled for "Thursday." No more scraps of paper. No more hoping you’ll remember.

Put the phone back in your pocket. Your digital friend will make sure you see the task on the right day. You'll even get an audible reminder a few minutes ahead of any task you had assigned a specific time.

Voice input is a huge time-saver. Like anything new, it takes a little practice to get used to a new way of doing things. Your friends may even look at you as if you’re fresh out of a Star Trek episode. They may also say, “Hey, show me how you did that.”

Frank Buck is the author of “Get Organized!: Time Management for School Leaders.” "Global Gurus Top 30" named him #1 in the Time Management category for 2019 and 2020. Dr. Buck speaks throughout the United States and internationally about organization and time management. You can reach him through his website: Follow him on Twitter @DrFrankBuck.