As a recent acolyte to the Getting Things Done (GTD) movement — living my life around to-do lists, inboxes, and open loops (read David Allen’s book) — I am always looking way to squeeze the most of the temporal situation. One of Allen’s tips is to organize to-do lists around settings, ie, have a seperate to-do list for when you’re home, running around doing errands, and another for when you are at your desk. Segment the items to the time and setting. Clear your inbox and catch up on reading on a long flight. Make phone calls at your desk when you have an open hour.
Car time is an interesting gap to try to fill. I use my commute to listen to podcasts, return some phone calls (I don’t use a headset and drive a stick-shift, so phoning is not my preferred activity), and thanks to a four-year old device, get some serious work done.
The device of which I speak is the Sony IC Recorder, specifically the ICD-MS1, which I purchased over the summer of 2000 when I joined McKinsey and had the crazed idea that I could use voice recognition software to dictate a novel. (voice recognition is well and good if you train it, but the amount of background noise in a car makes the recognition difficult at best).
The device gathered dust until I read Allen’s book and started using it to dictate my daily to-do list on the ride into work. The controls are intuitive enough to figure out in the dark. I hit record and blurt out whatever random thing I need to do into the microphone, hit pause, think for a second or two, hit pause again and blurt out another item. When I get to my desk I pop out the Sony Memory stick, stick it into an external USB drive, open up the voice recorder software on my Thinkpad, and transcribe the results into a Microsoft One-Note list.
It was pretty expensive at the time — more than $200 — but has paid for itself over the past three months.
Definitely a keeper and I’m sure Sony has a more modern version somewhere in its catalogue. A microcassette recorder would work as well, but the software that Sony provides is very amenable to transcription, with slow-down functions and the ability to archive files into folders.