I’m rarely an early adopter. Usually a new technology has to prove itself overwhelmingly useful before I make it part of my working process. In the last few days, though, I’ve found something that I’m finding incredibly useful: Jott.
Jott is a web/phone service you access from your cellphone, like a cross between a personal assistant and an audio organizer. After you set up a Jott account (free during beta), you can simply call 1-800-JOTT-123, and record a message. It gets transcribed (either electronically or by a human), and placed in your Jott Inbox. You can even choose to receive a reminder via email and/or text message.
Useful, yes? Just that kind of functionality would make Jott useful for anyone, but I started thinking of specific ways that creative types could use it to their advantage. To get the most out of these ideas, it pays to prepare.
Tailoring Jott for Creatives
Once you set up a Jott account, there is some customizing to do before you fire up the cellphone.
In order to Jott others via either email or text mail, you’ll need to import them as contacts. This is fairly straightforward as you’re able to use your GMail, Yahoo!, Hotmail address books as well as a few others. A hint that will make life easier down the road - if you don’t plan on sending text messages to your contacts, edit their telephone numbers out once they’re imported. At the moment there’s no way to choose to Jott either via text message or email - when you Jott someone, your contact gets both.
Now that your contacts have been imported, you can (and perhaps should) sort them into Groups. You can create your own Groups - I created groups for Family, Friends, Clients, Colleagues as well as a few others. This allows you to Jott to multiple people at the same time, such as a work team or perhaps client + printer + print buyer.
Setting up folders is another helpful bit of tailoring. It’s helpful to think in terms of what you typically need help remembering before you start the Folder-a-thon. In a typical day, I may be on the go and need assistance remembering things like a) creative ideas, b) editing notes for projects I’m working on, c) scheduling meetings/calls with clients, d) to do lists and e) family & home stuff. To get the most out of Jott, I created folders based on these concepts: Create, Edit, Clients, List, Family, and Home. I also started using Jott to keep a running grocery store list, and, voila, created a Food folder.
You’ll notice that I kept my Folder names fairly simple - there’s a reason for that, and it has to do with Jott’s voice recognition system. When you call in, you’ll be asked, “Who would you like to Jott?” by the IVR. I found after some experimentation that it’s best to follow a few guidelines for best results:
- stick to single-word Folder names where possible
- avoid Folder names with lots of sibilance (Sustenances, Sources, et al.) - Jott’s IVR seems to misunderstand these
- stick to common words (”Food” works better than “Groceries”, we found)
- avoid acronyms (ADFP)
- avoid camelcase names (IBMPodcast = right out)
Once you’ve created your Folders, you’ll be able to Jott directly to them and automatically sort your ideas as you phone them in. I’ve included a few examples below to show how this all fits together.
Creative Uses for Jott
Traveling around Chicago I often get a jolt of inspiration when I see or hear something. The problem is that I don’t always have easy access to a sketchbook, and would either forget or misremember some bit of insight. While taking out a sketchbook may not always be possible, my cellphone is handy nearly always, so I set up a “Create” folder on Jott, and phone these little bits of inspiration directly to it, like so:
Message: Riding the Blue Line into the Loop, the trees west of the Damen stop look like withered claws without their leaves. Might make for good photographs.
Message: Old buildings at corner of Logan Boulevard and Elston about to be torn down. Great ironwork on outside. Take pictures before Friday when the wrecking ball swings.
I usually always include the location in case I need to revisit a place. The date/time will automatically be included in your Jott message. You have about 30 seconds of recording time with each message, but Jott allows you to create multiple messages in a row - if you need more than 30 seconds, simply wait for the next “Who would you like to Jott?” prompt, and keep recording!
Graphic Designers and almost anyone who works for outside clients are almost always juggling multiple projects. Staying organized is a challenge, but Jott can rescue you from some of that.
As you remember things, phone them in to Jott. You can also set up Folders for individual clients if you like, although having all my Client “To Dos” in one Folder helps me see the broader picture. ~+/-(your mileage)
Message:Fax comps to Janeane at Price King - 312-555-1212 by Thursday
Message:Email estimates for brochure to Karen at email@example.com
Important telephone numbers, email addresses, street addresses, names and resources won’t get lost. If your transcription doesn’t come through at 100%, no worries. You can always listen to your original voice recording at the Jott website to make sure that nothing’s missed.
Expenses with Xpen$er
Another important set of items for small businesses to keep up with are expenses: lunch with clients, art materials, parking costs. Jott allows users to hook into other useful sites like Xpen$er to keep track of every penny. You can reconcile your paper receipts with what you recorded via Jott, and make sure nothing gets overlooked.
Once your Jott account is set up, click on the “Jott Links” tab, and find the link to Xpen$er. Once you add Xpen$er as a Jott Link, you’ll be directed to the Xpen$er site to set up a free account. After you’ve completed the registration, you’ll be able to use Jott to send information to Xpen$er with one quick call from your cell.
Message: Lunch, $27.50 with Dave Smith at the Cyber Bistro
Your expense will show up in Xpen$er where you can leave it as is, or edit it if need be.
Appointments with Google Calendar
Another online application Jott hooks into is Google Calendar. As you did with Xpen$er, you’ll need to go to Jott Links, find Google Calendar, and “Add” it. You’ll be taken to Google Calendar where you’ll have to log in and give permission for Jott to share your calendar. If you have more than one calendar, you’ll also need to select which one you want to use - I use four calendars (Home, Work and two others specific to organizations I belong to) so I selected Work for Jott to interact with. Currently you can’t hook into more than calendar.
When you want to add an appointment to your calendar, give Jott a call:
Message: Dinner with Barbara April 7 from 8 to 9pm
So far Jott + Google Calendar understands dates, times and time spans fairly well. The functionality isn’t perfect, however, and setting up recurring events can be tricky, so caveat usetor.
To wrap up, Jott can help you stay creative on the go and stay organized. For the time being Jott is a free service, and the number is toll-free, but that may change once the Jott team works out all the kinks.