MicroMemoMy personal mission to increase productivity, by decreasing the number of gadgets I use, took a sideways step recently. Since I started listening to podcasts, lectures and audio books, my iPod nano has become a fairly central part of my life. Now my new companion has even started listening to me, resulting in an even deeper relationship. We are spending lots of time together. I don’t think my family has noticed this new interloper yet, but I am sure it is only a matter of time.

The MicroMemo for iPodMicroMemo is a tiny device that plugs into the iPod Nano, providing a microphone, an audio input, and an extra button. Despite the fact that the nano has more processing power and memory than the first supercomputer I used, it definitely lacks a decent ‘input’ capability. The MicroMemo fixes that by turning the iPod into a universal audio capture device. Plug it in, and the iPod jumps to a recording screen. From then on, the iPod is ready to capture every spoken thought at the click of a button.

Getting Things Done and a number of other productivity philosophies promote the idea of recording and collecting all of ones ideas in single place. This is a great hack for improving organisation and creativity. Having a capture device creates a means to seize fleeting thoughts and ideas, before they are lost to the next random incoming call, email or conversation. Never loose another valuable thought or miss a ‘I must do that’ again. May be you will, but now there will be one less excuse for doing so.

Capturing thoughts and ideas rewards and encourages creative thinking. Rather than losing thoughts, you can capture them. Now your mind is free to move on to the next thought, knowing that you can act on the last one later. This is a positive cycle that rewards creative behaviour, because those creative thoughts get turned into action, rather than lost. Of course, you now need a ‘processing’ step to deal with all these new memos. The MicroMemo makes this easy, by syncing to iTunes. The next time I plug in to top up on pod-casts and music, the memos appear in their very own playlist, ready to be played back and acted on.

The MicroMemo isn’t just for short memos. You can record hours of dictation too. This blog post started off as a voice memo on the iPod. If you do use it for dictation, there is the small matter of transcription to deal with. Unless you are an accomplished touch typist, dictation can be a time consuming chore. However, help is at hand, thanks to the outsource your life principle of the 4 hour work week, and a handy blog post by the ever developing Matt. There are some very affordable on-line transcription services (Matt’s post covers some these services and his experiences with them). Isn’t life good?

I’ve used a pen and pad as my main capture device in the past. It works well, and I am sure that I will continue to do so, but voice memos do have a number of unique strengths. Voice memos put the ‘stuff’ that is captured ‘out of sight’. That means less clutter and distractions, reducing the noise from ideas coming back at you off of the page or piles of post it notes. Capturing verbally is also faster that writing and can be done on the move. You speak at around 200 words per minute but write at about 30, and that’s if you aren’t trying to use a pen and paper one-handed as you are running for a train. It is also useful to have an audio capture tool to hand during interesting talks – do ask permission before you record. You can also record your own speeches and presentations – a great way to reflect and improve your communication skills.

See Also: iPhone hits the UK and Information at Your Finger Tips