The new Jott: One site to rule them all

SANTA BARBARA, CALIF. -- Have you seen Jott lately? The free service -- once used primarily to send "notes to self" -- has been transformed into the best online productivity service I've ever seen. 

All-around productivity tools abound, and many have crazy names: 43 Actions, 30 Boxes, Vitalist, Remember the Milk, Noter, iChecklist, pTasks, Todoist, Gubb, I Want Sandy, Ta-da List, Listingly -- the list of list-based productivity tools goes on and on.

I'm something of a productivity freak, and love discovering and using new tools, especially online services that innovate in useful ways. I've tried dozens of these tools, some impressive, others... well, not so much.

Though I keep trying new productivity sites and abandoning old ones, I've never stopped using Jott for sending notes to myself.

Jott invites you to set up a contact list, then gives you their phone number -- (866) 568-8123. You call, and a recorded voice asks, "Who do you want to Jott?" Usually, I say "myself" then say a reminder, but users can also send to anyone in the contacts list. The recipient gets an e-mail with your words transcribed into text, plus a link to the audio.

My typical use for Jott is: I send Jotts to myself, then copy and paste them into whatever online productivity tool I happen to be using at the time.

This week, I was researching a column ("Control your BlackBerry with voice commands") and discovered a shocking fact: While I wasn't looking, the good people at Jott transformed their service into the Mother of All Online Productivity Tools.

Jott has added the following powerful features:

  • Integration with a wide range of productivity, blogging and other tools. You call Jott as usual, but send your spoken text to your blog or productivity tool.
  • RSS feeds by phone. Call for weather or other information, or plug in any feed. Just call the Jott number, give the name of the feed, and a computer will read it to you.
  • Add Google Calendar appointments (and 30 Boxes calendar appointments) with a phone call.

I resolved while researching my column that I would move from my current list-based productivity tool, which was Todoist, to one of the Jott-supported alternatives. This would allow me to cut the middle man out and send to-do items straight to my list without having to copy and paste from e-mail.

So I spent most of today thoroughly trying all the services Jott supports (Remember the Milk, 30 Boxes, I Want Sandy, Vitalist, Toodledo, Nozbe, Keep Up, Mentat, SmartSheet, 43 Actions and Kwiry). One list tool, I found, was vastly superior to all the others: Jott itself!

Jott now has a "Lists" feature, where you can create any number of lists, which automatically go on your contacts list. I set up two lists -- one called "Sooner" and another called "Later." I can look at either list, or both together. (I'll probably add a large number of other lists later -- this is just too cool.)

To add items to, say, my "Sooner" list, I call Jott (it's on speed dial, natch), say "Sooner," then say my to-do item. It shows up in about a minute, where I can correct rare errors, add deadlines or set the priority. A "check off" button crosses out the item, and an "x" button makes it go away.

Each list also has the options to print, rename, delete or delete only those items completed.

On the right of the lists they've placed an unassuming "Reminders" item. Click that, type something in, and slap a time and date on it. At the appointed moment, you get an e-mail or telephone reminder or both (you decide when you create the reminder). You can use this for wake up calls, just-in-time information (say, the name and address of the hotel you'll be staying timed to arrive just as you're getting of your plane) or whatever kind of reminder you like. 

So why do I like Jott better than all the other list-based productivity tools I've tried?

1. It's simple. It's not based on some fad philosophy or hack system for productivity. It's just very straightforward, clear and functional. 

2. It's easy. Jott just works, there's nothing much to learn. You use the same, single phone number for sending Jotts, adding things to your to-do list or adding things to your calendar. Just press the speed dial and start talking.

3. It's pretty. Jott is by far the most aesthetically appealing site of all the productivity sites I've seen. (Which isn't saying much -- most are hideous.)

4. It's phone-centric. Because you always have your phone, you can always add to do items or calendar items. No more forgetting, no more writing things down to be managed later.

5. It's Jott. As I mentioned, I'm going to use Jott no matter what. My moving from my old system -- where I would Jott reminders to e-mail, then copy-and-paste to Todoist -- to using Jott's lists, I've cut three sites down to one.

So if you haven't tried Jott -- or haven't visited their site lately -- I strongly encourage you to high-tail it over to and check it out. This is a monstrously useful and appealing service, and completely different from the humble notes-to-self service you thought it was.

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