Getting the Most Out of Journaling by Dictation

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I recently shared my experience with dictating journal entries. I prefer handwriting to any other method of journaling, but it’s not always practical. I don’t always have a notebook handy or my hands free to peck out a note on my phone. Dictation gives me the opportunity to capture thoughts that otherwise might escape. If you want to try dictation for journaling, you can maximize its benefits by paying attention to a few techniques.

Be Mindful and Focused: When dictating, it’s essential to maintain a mindful and focused state, even more than you would when writing by hand. On a page, your eyes can flick back to what you’ve already written. These regressions help ground you in what you’re writing. Dictation doesn’t offer the same luxury, so you have to focus. Take a few deep breaths before beginning to center your thoughts and enhance your concentration.

Speak Slowly and Deliberately: Speaking at a slower pace can help you engage more deeply with your thoughts, allowing you to process and analyze them as you dictate. This mindful approach to dictation can mimic the attentiveness required when handwriting. Plus, going too fast can overwhelm the software and introduce a lot of errors. Garbage output won’t help you when it comes to the next technique!

Review and Reflect: After you’ve finished dictating, read the transcribed text. It’s easier to correct transcription errors while the topic is still fresh in your mind. In addition, this technique engages the structures in your brain that filter and focus thoughts. That will help fix what you’ve written in your mind for your next session.

Dictation engages the mind differently than handwriting. Adopting mindful and intentional strategies can help you achieve cognitive and emotional benefits similar to those from writing by hand.

Dictation and Journaling

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Recently, I tried dictating some notes during a bout of insomnia. The results were encouraging. I was curious to see how dictation would affect my journaling practice. Capturing my thoughts and emotions via voice offered a few benefits and drawbacks that I’d like to share.

Speaking my Mind

Speech is our most natural form of communication. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that dictating journal entries felt natural. (Mostly. See “Punctuation Errors” below for the exception.) Switching from handwriting to dictating my journal entries enhanced the flow of my thoughts and emotions. Verbal expression has helped me delve deeper into introspection. There’s no physical barrier to slow the articulation of my experiences, feelings, and insights.


When I write by hand, my eyes can easily track back to check in with what I’ve already written. While dictating, I don’t look at my screen. It’s easier for my thoughts to wander away from my topic. Using dictation has encouraged me to order my thoughts more carefully as I work through a topic. After only a few voice entries, I found that my handwritten entries were also more coherent.


While multitasking is the bane of my workday, dictating my journal is different. I can dictate a journal entry while I do chores around the house and yard. Washing dishes, dusting, and watering plants takes no concentration. In fact, the tasks seem to go faster because I’m focused on journaling.

Punctuation Errors

While the iPhone’s text-to-speech tool inserts some punctuation, it’s not perfect. Sometimes, it produces run-on sentences that are difficult to parse afterward. Other times, it disrupts the sentences with extraneous punctuation. It also has no clue about when a new paragraph should start. Because of these inaccuracies, I sometimes have trouble interpreting my own thoughts when I read them afterward! To get cleaner output, I have to verbally insert punctuation and new paragraphs. That can disrupt my flow.

The Need to Edit

Because dictation isn’t 100% accurate, I have to edit what I’ve dictated to make sure that it makes sense. Punctuation is only one factor. I find frequent errors with homophones. The tool usually gets whether I mean “to,” “two,” or “too,” but inserts “right” when I mean “write,” for example. I always check hand-written entries, too, but dictation introduces more errors than handwriting. Editing those entries takes a lot more time.

Worth a Try

I dictated at least one entry each day for the last five days. While I still prefer writing by hand, dictation has elevated my journaling practice. If you’re considering a change in your journaling routine, give voice dictation a try. You may be surprised at the new levels of insight and self-discovery that await you.