Top Commuter Tips and Tools

Top tips and tools for commuters to make their travel time for productive. Topics include audio books, podcasts, dictation, Speech-to-Text and more.
Top Commuter Tools and TipsIn Boston, my commute was 90 minutes a day, in the car. In New York, it was 3 hours, each day on the train and walking across midtown Manhattan. Now in Michigan, I still spend 2 hours a day in the car. You might say I am proficient at commuting. With this proficiency comes many solutions for maximizing productivity during the commute. Here’s what I find helps and recommend to fellow commuters:
1. iPod / MP3 Player: The obvious. I won’t say much about it, as an MP3 player is ubiquitous these days. However, it also underlies many of the tools / tips below.

2. Audio Books: Audio books can be immensely helpful on your commute. If you spend just 20 minutes a day listening to a book, you’ll find your library rapidly expanded. You will not absorb as much in one “hearing” of a book as a “reading”. However, I listen to the best books 4 or 5 times. By that point, I’ve absorbed far more than one read, often in less time. For resources, many people like, but I find iTunes has most of the same books and have not made the leap to a subscription service yet.

3. Podcasts: Better than audio books for current events and technology updates. If you want to stay on top of the latest news, why not do it on the commute and save that time when you’re home for the kids or other activities?

4. Dictation: Dictation is the greatest productivity tool. With the right tools, you can use dictation for everything from email, to drafting documents, book writing, blog posts and more. The trick is finding a good microphone and digital recorder, then obtaining the right software for conversion to text. My recommendations follow:

4.A Digital Recorder: There are lots of good digital recorders. However, I prefer to use the Griffin iTalk Professional, which allows me to reduce the number of devices I carry by converting my iPod into a digital recorder.

4.B Headset Microphone: You’ll need a quality headset microphone to ensure the background / road noise is minimized. The products vary here as well. However, I’ve had great success with the default headset provided by Dragon Naturally Speaking. Most important, remember that the positioning of the microphone is unbelievably important, so a flexible arm is also good.

4.C Dragon Naturally Speaking: The best software for speech-to-text I’ve used. Although Vista now comes bundled with it’s own speech-to-text software, it simply does not compare. The Microsoft product still seems a few generations behind and there’s no simple way to do recorded dictation from an audio file. For $150, DNS will save you a lot of time. I use the preferred mobile edition.

4.D Audacity / Sound Editing Software: This helps when the background noise from your recording is too great for automated dictation. A simple sound editing program can fix this. I love the open source (free) Audacity program. With this tool you can edit out background noise and improve the automated dictation results.

4.E Transcription Service: When all else fails, transcription services are pretty inexpensive these days. Checkout eLance or similar sites for the best rates & reviews on service providers.

Text-To-Speech: I have not found a text-to-speech program I like. If you have a recommendation, please share it here.

So the next time you are commuting a long distance and worried about wasted time, turn those lemons into lemonade. With the right tools, you may find your commute turning into one of your most productive periods of the day.


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Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder and principal of Modern Servant Leader and Radiant Forest, LLC. He has studied and promoted servant leadership awareness and adoption for over 20 years. He is the author of 2 leadership books and has 2 decades of corporate management and leadership experience. His corporate experience spans CIO, VP, Director, and many management roles at Fortune 500, INC 500, and Nonprofits. Ben’s education includes a B.S. in Management Science & Information Systems from Penn State University and an MBA from Lehigh University. Ben's Full Profile Here: About Ben Lichtenwalner

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