The word “best” is never far from the mind of leadership coach Jason Womack. He is committed to helping people achieve their very best in all facets of life, and then pushing them to make things even better. His book, Your Best Just Got Better, is dedicated to this topic, and as a sign of Jason practicing what he preaches, when he set out to write the book, he looked for the best possible way of doing so.
Jason turned to speech recognition, and was soon dictating page after page with Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Dragon continues to be a valuable productivity tool for Jason to this day, and he recently shared his thoughts on how it has made such a difference for him.
Nuance: How did you first become interested in trying speech recognition?
Jason: It was actually with a product from IBM. My brother’s first job was with that company, and he got me a version of (I think it was called) “Via Voice” and I was hooked. This was in 1997, almost 20 years ago. In that moment, I can say I “got it.” I knew I would be spending a lot of time at the keyboard, and I had taught myself to type at about 60 words per minute. But being able to speak at a full 80 or even 100 words per minute, and have the computer keep up with all of them, was magical. I followed speech recognition as it evolved over the years, which led me to Dragon. I’ve been using Dragon since 2009 and I haven’t looked back.
When you decided to write your book, how did you know that speech recognition was the right resource?
Within the past decade or so I have become a regular dictation user. I remember getting an account when I finished teaching high school, and that was in the year 2000. So, when it came time to put the ideas from my notebooks, sticky notes, and whiteboard into typed text, I knew that speech recognition was going to be a resource that I would continually push on. And I did. My deadline for the book was about four and a half months, and in that time I hand-wrote, typed, and used speech to create all 250 pages.
What were the more immediate, short-term benefits that you noticed?
The immediate benefit of speech recognition is always felt when I am using it. For example, I am dictating the answers to these questions in my hotel room here in Miami, simply speaking to my laptop computer, literally watching the words appear on the screen. And, I’m not really speaking all that much slower. So, when it comes to the end of a long day, and I have five or 10 emails to catch up on, or a couple of dozen tasks to enter into my task management system, it’s much easier for me to dictate all of the information as opposed to having to sit at my computer and type. I’ve even connected my Bluetooth headset to my speech recognition program and I’ve walked around my office, and even my house, dictating directly into my computer.
What is the most sizeable project that you’ve used speech recognition to complete, and what was that process like?
Obviously the largest project has been the book, and with another book contract recently signed with a due date of later this year, I know I’ll be using speech for multiple hours every single day.
I also consistently use speech recognition for my ongoing published article series at Training Magazine. For more than six years, I have written a monthly article, and I would say 50 to 60 percent of those — about 45 articles — were created mainly using speech recognition. I also write for other websites, like Inc. Magazine, and Entrepreneur Magazine. Most of those articles at one point or another had some speech recognition for the initial input of getting the information from my notebook through my head onto the screen.
What do you continue to use speech recognition for today?
Adding items to my to-do list, drafting articles for magazines and websites, writing blog posts for my own blogs, and creating and sending emails.
What tips would you give to someone who is interested in trying speech recognition for the first time?
Just like any new tool, you need to give yourself a bit of time to understand how speech recognition and dictation work. I have three tips that I would give to someone who is interested in trying speech recognition for the first time. Number one, practice when it is not that important. Number two, be consistent — use speech every day for five or even 10 days. And number three, don’t brag, or even tell anybody that you’re using it until you’ve had several weeks under your belt.
I find that the more I use speech recognition, the more I use speech recognition. I know, that sounded a little weird. However, the important piece here is to be consistent. The iterative improvements that will happen not only in how you use speech recognition, but when and how often you use it will really make a difference in your productivity. Again, I can type at about 60 words per minute, but when I get going I can talk at 80 or even 100 words per minute. To write a long email, or draft the beginning of a multi-paragraph blog post or article, I can get a lot more out onto the screen faster and more efficiently by speaking rather than typing.
One of the things that you’re going to find is that the more that you use technology and the more that you rely on technology, other people will watch you and raise their expectations. There’s nothing worse than using speech recognition on my phone, sending a long note to someone, and misspelling their name or some other word because the phone dictation service was not 100% accurate. I usually don’t tell people when I’m using speech recognition, because if something goes wrong their opinion is tainted. If something goes right, all they want to talk about is the system. That’s great for marketing the companies that I support, but it takes us out of the potential of discussing things that may be more important.
What advice would you give to someone who is using speech recognition for the first time? They are sitting down in front of their computer, ready to start dictating…
I really like to practice when things are not that important. It just makes it a little bit easier to win. So, sit down in front of your computer, and consider simply speaking into the computer to watch your words appear without you touching the keyboard. I think one of the things that took me a little while to get used to was watching the words appear on the screen, even when I said “um” or “uh,” and being able to let go of an expectation of what might or might not happen.