Ask any business owner who runs her own business while raising a family what her biggest bugbear is and you will hear a universal cry of ‘the juggle’.
Business, family, relationships – and let’s not forget that mythical unicorn known as ‘me time’ – and it’s easy to feel like you are juggling way too many plates with too few arms to catch them all.
So why do we do it? Because quite frankly, we love it.
Business is in our veins and the idea of NOT pursuing our vision is more horrific than the daily run around.
We learn to master the art of prioritisation and revel in any hack that can make our lives that little bit easier.
So when the team at Dragon Speech Recognition Software reached out to me to invite me to use Dragon - together with a new Sennheiser USB Headset - as a productivity tool, my interest was definitely piqued.
The promise was great - improved productivity and effectiveness in my business – in less time. They’d set the bar pretty high.
Curious, I decided to give it a crack for a week to see how this baby would stand up to the toughest critic of them all – a mother.
First Up – The Installation Process
Being married to an IT man, over the years I’ve allowed myself to become complacent with all things technology related. Installing new software normally gets delegated to my Head of IT, because quite frankly, I don’t see it as a smart use of my time.
But when it came to installing Dragon on my MacBook, Mr Mothers Den swiftly declined my request for assistance on the basis that if I’m to review it, I should be able to review the whole process, including the installation and set up.
Can’t argue with that logic.
And to be perfectly honest, getting Dragon up and running was probably one of the easiest installation processes I have ever gone through. In under ten minutes and only a few clicks of my mouse the software had been verified, installed and a vocal recognition test completed. Another ten minutes and I had completed the practical tutorials to get my head around how to navigate this new technology.
I was liking this already.
As any business owner will know, a well managed inbox can be the difference between chaos and calm. For me personally, the most painful part of my inbox is the time it takes to reply to even the shortest of messages.
What would take me 30 seconds to say can take up to 10 minutes in the mysterious email time warp.
I committed to opening my inbox twice a day at 11am and 5pm using only Dragon to drive the email process.
What normally takes 30 minutes twice a day took less that six minutes all up.
Dictation accuracy was about 90% and I did need to train my Dragon to learn unfamiliar words like Uldouz and InstaPage. All in all though, being able to just speak through what I wanted to say made the usually arduous task of inbox management really quite pleasant.
TIME SAVED: 48 minutes
Preparing Lengthy Replies
As a business coach, I’m regularly asked by my clients to cast a second eye over something that they may be working on. Think websites, email sequences, documents, proposals and anything else a business owner puts out into the big bad world to grow their own business.
This process normally looks a little something like this…
1. Open client document
2. Flick to new tab/application (Word or email) and provide feedback
3. Go back to client document
4. Flick back to tab/application and provide feedback
5. Do this a trillion more times and then go back through the process again to make sure you didn’t miss anything.
With Dragon, I was able to open the client document, read through it and give oral feedback as I went. Super easy and so much more efficient.
Something that has the potential to take up to an hour, was completed in less than five without compromising on the quality of feedback.
Honestly, I would have loved to have had this back in my lawyer days when I was doing things like summarising Counsel’s advice and drafting replies. When I later found out that lawyers and doctors use Dragon the most, it came at no surprise.
Now, I can see it as a massive time saver for any business owner whose work involves providing detailed reviews, summaries or feedback to their clients.
TIME SAVED: 55 minutes
In case you hadn’t guessed, this post was written using Dragon.
I was pretty apprehensive about how it would go with an Australian accent but I found that on first go, it was over 90% accurate.
And the more I use it, the more it ‘learned’ how I spoke and accuracy improved even further.
The hardest part was the time it took for me to learn how to correct mistakes, teach it my ‘jargon’ and do the tricky little bits and pieces like go back and add something to the middle of a paragraph.
The learning tutorials are so easy to follow and in under 10 minutes you can be a pretty effective user. The real challenge is in reprogramming your brain to just say the command rather than surrender to the temptation to just hit the keys because it’s ‘easier’.
Really though, once you get going with it, it’s hard to go back to any other way.
Especially when you consider that we think and talk faster that we can type, any form of long dictation like blogs, books or e-guides can be created in a fraction of the time.
TIME SAVED: Potentially hours
Time Spent ‘On’ The Business
Like many business owners, my ideas on the direction of The Mothers Den and how to solve particular road blocks always come to me at the most abstract times. Think shower, cooking or folding laundry.
The best that I can come up with is that creative thinking happens best when you’re in a relaxed state so doing mindless tasks acts almost like a moving meditation for your business.
So I thought I would trial Dragon as a tool to transcribe my mental chaos while chopping vegetables for last night’s chilli.
Switching on the microphone – and pulling out the knife and the chopping board - I started to think out loud about a particular block I am having around a certain arm of the business. I debated with myself, I articulated what was keeping me stuck and I threw around ideas for a resolution.
And the end result?
I was able to give myself the space to think about the business in a way that was quite relaxed when normally this kind of time is hard to come by.
And the best part?
I was left with the ‘minutes’ of my one on one meeting with myself – or as I like to call it – active journaling.
This was such a valuable exercise since I know that the ideas I was able to articulate would have been floating around in my head regardless. This was just an opportunity to get them on the record.
TIME SAVED: Who knows. But in term of value, this was priceless.
Transcription of Pre-Recorded Video
Just for kicks I decided to have a go to see how Dragon would perform transcribing some pre recorded audio. So I pulled up a couple of past videos I’d created and set the software to go.
The results were mixed.
Videos that only included my voice worked to about 85% accuracy so it’s not a bad option for someone wanting to create a transcript of a video or podcast.
I also used Dragon to transcribe some voice memos I’d made on my iPhone and was really happy with the results. I’m a chronic user of the voice memo app since ideas and copy normally hit me at odd times when I’m out and about.
The only drawback here was that the transcription came back as one massive paragraph of text and I needed to go through and put in my editing and formatting.
A small price to pay for the ease of having an instant transcript.
Videos that included someone else talking – not so successful. This is no surprise since Dragon isn’t actually designed to transcribe multiple speakers – it’s purpose is to make it’s owner’s life easier and more efficient with single voice recognition.
So how easy was it to use, really?
There were a couple of negatives.
Firstly, your computer needs to be up to scratch. My MacBook is coming up to 9 years old – which I’ve been told is about 4 passed it’s used by date.
Installing such a heavy software like Dragon on a relatively slow computer caused it to crash a couple of times but when I reinstalled Dragon on our new and super speedy Mac, it worked like a dream.
So if you are using an older Mac or PC, just be aware that you need to have the memory to support it.
Second, learning a new language is hard, particularly when you feel so stretched in the first place. Trying to find the time (and the patience) to relearn a new way of doing things can be demotivating in the beginning, but I definitely saw the rewards very quickly as I saw my productivity and efficiency increase. It didn’t take long for the dividends to start rolling in.
On the positive side?
Given that this 1900 word blog post, which would normally take me a good couple of hours to put together, has been created in 18 minutes, I really believe that if productivity and efficiency are your focus (and let’s face it, who DOESN’T have this as their focus?), it’s well worth the bit of extra time up front to learn this new way of doing things.
Dragon also has so many other features that I didn’t get to utilise within the week like voice control for applications and web. I’m keen to have a play around with those over the next few weeks as well.
The Sennheiser headset is a no brainer if your house is full of noisy kids like mine is. To be able to plug the headset in and speak away without having to worry about interference from my Three Musketeers engaged in play was a dream – from both mine and their point of view.
If your business involves a lot of writing, blogging or review – or if you simply want to be able to do more with less - Dragon provides a great solution.
When you are a mum like who has a lot of things on the go at once, the greatest gift that anyone can give you is the gift of time. This was by far the most valuable thing that Dragon brought to the table.
Dragon retails for $475 but members of The Mothers Den community can purchase for 35% off the regular retail price by entering promo code Bendalls35OffDiscount at via http://send.onenetworkdirect.net/z/622405/CD240826/.
*For the purpose of this review, I used Dragon Professional Individual for Mac 6 and the Sennheiser SC 260 USB MS II Wide Band Binaural headset, both available for 35% off the RRP via the link above.
Be Brave, Live Fierce
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