How to speak faster during dictations

If you want to dictate at a higher speed, you have to learn how to think and speak faster.

There are no 2 ways about it. All of these really boil down to being able to think quickly on your feet.

The good news? Most of us already think way faster than we talk. This is a scientific fact.

While we can’t measure the speed of thoughts directly, we can measure the speed in which neurons send information to each other.

We have a good idea of how fast signals from the brain reach our muscles. According to several studies, our brains relay electrical information to our muscles at a rate of 270 miles per hour.

That’s very fast.

It’s definitely much faster than speaking at a rate of 125 words per minute.

Our minds can come up with thoughts so much faster than we can verbalize them. In fact, if you’re reading this, you probably are thinking about a million and one things.

You can recognize some of them while others are just blinking in and out really quickly. That’s how fast your mind works.

The big challenge in learning how to speak faster for dictations is to trap or tame as much of that thinking speed as possible. Speaking faster is all about controlling our thinking process to the point that we can quickly identify our strongest ideas, develop them, and move on to the next thought.

This won’t happen quickly. It definitely won’t take place overnight.

The good news is that with enough practice through dictation every day, we can speak so much faster. It’s going to be rough the first few times, but pretty soon, you’ll get the hang of it.

With practice, you’ll speak faster and most of your transcripts won’t need much editing. At 125 words per minute, you will be able to crank out 7,500 words per hour or 60,000 words in an 8 hour day.

Think about the possibilities.

Think of how many blog posts you can crank out daily.
Think about the books the 300-page books you can produce every single day.
Focus on the thousands of ideas you can identify, catalog, and define in the space of 8 hours.
Imagine the tons of social media posts you can produce just by talking them out.

Try to wrap your mind around the large collection of marketing materials you can dictate every single day.

Again, the possibilities are endless. It all begins with learning how to speak faster. Here are the 16 steps that I use to get my dictation speed up.

On a good day, I can produce 50,000 words. When edited down into printable quality, that translates to 35,000 to 40,000 words. Not too shabby.

Not only do you get to produce more content through dictation blogging, you benefit in a lot of other ways as well-from discipline to better time management.

I’ve been at this for several years now and I’m 100% sure that you can do the same. Start by following the steps below.

Step #1: Always use an outline

This is non-negotiable. If you’re thinking of just freestyling your way to 40,000, 50,000, or even 60,000 words per day, you’re delusional.

I hate to say it.

Why? Most of the stuff that you are going to be dictating will be garbage.

Sure, there’s going to be some bright spots here and there. But most of it will be unusable. When you use an outline, you get an instant message discipline.

That’s the bottom line. You know what to talk about, how to talk about it, how long to cover it, and what comes next.

This simple set of limits adds so much value to the transcription of your dictation. Always start with an outline. Once you have your outline in front of you, either on a screen or printed out, read it very quickly.

You don’t have to dwell on every paragraph or letter. Just zip through it.

When you do this, you become familiar with the broad themes of what you’re going to be dictating.

Next, go back to the top and read the major headings. Don’t bother with the fine details. Just look at the subheadings. Understand them.

This gives you the proper context of what you’re going to be talking about and how you’re going to approach it.

Once you’re done with the major headings, read the whole thing again quickly. You may be thinking that you’re not picking up much of anything when you read the outline, but you’ll be wrong.

Now, you know what to expect.

A lot of the fear or laziness that you may have about the material goes away. You know what to expect. You’re managing your assumptions somewhat.

Next, go back to the top and read it slower. You’d be surprised as to how much of your outline makes sense.

If you wrote it correctly, most, if not all of it, will make sense.

Finally, you read closely. At this point, you probably already know what parts of the outline you’re kinda spotty on. Just jump to those sections. Feel free to jump backward and forwards.

Do this in a span of 10 minutes. It doesn’t matter how long the outline is. Get it all done in 10 minutes.

A lot of the resistance that you’re feeling right now is emotional. It’s not intellectual.

That’s the good news. You can do this. You’re smart enough.

The problem is you think you’re not up to the job. So when you go through this routine, you’ll let go of your emotional hesitation as well as your fear.

Many people often label this as “laziness” or “procrastination”. It’s just all emotions.

Now, you’re just clearing all that fog and you know what to expect. Do this in 10 minutes.

Step #2: Pick a spot you won’t be disturbed in

Ideally, you should pick a place that you won’t get disturbed in. This works best for introverts.

If you’re an extrovert and you don’t mind speaking into a condenser microphone or digital voice recorder in public, look for a different type of place.

Look for a location where you feel you can be pressured to focus. People may be talking around you even with social distancing, but the social pressure pushes you to pay close attention to what you’re doing.

Some people are wired to perform better this way. Others can’t hang with so many distractions and they need to be alone.

Either way, you know yourself better than anybody. Pick the right spot.

Step #3: Develop a pre-dictation ritual

Think back to when you dictated clear, high-quality content in one sitting. If you’re doing any kind of dictation blogging or if you’ve written a book through dictation, you’ve done this.

Maybe you worked on a chapter and just flowed so smoothly. Remember that time.

What did you do? Repeat those rituals.

Maybe you cleared your throat. Maybe you stood up straight and took a few deep breaths and settled into your seat.

Maybe you ran your hands on your condenser microphone or podcasting mic or some sort of heavy digital voice recorder.

Whatever you did, it set you at ease emotionally. Again, whatever difficulties you’re having when it comes to being productive, a lot of that is in your head.

Most of it is emotional. You’ve done well before. So it’s not competence.

It’s not your IQ or ability to succeed. It’s something else.

When you go through certain rituals that almost always lead to you outperforming, you get rid of those emotional limits.

Make it a point to consciously and intentionally go through a pre-dictation ritual after you have picked a great spot to dictate your blog post, articles, novels, books, or video scripts.

Step #4: Read your outline and think of 3 directions

After you’ve read your outline, you know what directions it could go. This should be instinctive.

There can only be so many ways the information can flow. These are the most logical and most familiar to you.

Think of the 3 most identifiable directions you can take when reading the first few bullet points of your outline.

They don’t have to be crystal clear. They definitely don’t have to leap out at you in a 3-dimensional form. They don’t have to be perfect.

But you should feel comfortable in trusting yourself to go in either of those 3 directions. This is important because, at this point, you’re learning to trust yourself emotionally and psychologically.

Step #5: Dictate 1 direction

Now that you have thought about 3 ways you can approach that bullet point, let the words appear. At the back of your mind, you’ve already select it.

All of us have different preferences. That’s just how our brains are wired. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Just trust yourself enough to open your mouth and let those sounds come out and dictate that 1 direction.

Step #6: Fully flesh out the idea as you speak

As you go through your outline, there are so many ways you can explore the idea. You can use so many different words and phrasings to get to the same point.

Trust yourself enough to pick 1 direction and pull in as many different clear words that bring the point home without you repeating yourself.

Don’t obsess about the fact that you don’t want to repeat yourself. If you do this, you will start talking in loops.

I’ve seen it happen. It used to happen to me a lot.

Trust yourself enough to fully flesh out that idea. Be curious. Explore different directions and facets.

It’s like holding a vase in your had. You can look at it from the front, top, and side.

All that’s fine as long as you don’t keep going back to where you started. Just focus on each point once.

focus on key points

Step #7: Identify the strongest points as you develop a key point

When you speak improvisationally, your mind is actually operating on many different tracks.

It’s thinking about the next few words that you’re going to say, but it’s also keeping track of the concept that you are describing or engaging with.

As you do this, your mind is trying to make sense of everything. It has its own GPS. There’s really no other way for me to phrase it.

It knows it has this rough sense of whether it’s going in the right direction or if it’s just totally off track.

By trusting your internal GPS on the flow of what you’re talking about, you allow your mind to clearly identify the strongest points of what you’re talking about.

This is important because you have to get to the point quickly and you can not miss a crucial detail.

When you trust your mental GPS to piece everything together, the more key points you develop and the quicker your strongest points appear.

Step #8: Focus on unique ideas

This is where it gets tricky. When you’re developing a key point, there seem to be certain strong, almost obvious ideas that just materialize and you can’t wait to talk about them.

Here’s the problem. You may have talked about them in another way before.

By spending more time with them, you not only fail to bring something unique enough to the table, but you probably will forget other stronger and more valuable points that you could have explored.

I wish I could tell you that there’s an easy solution to this. This is a key sticking point of dictating content.

I don’t care if you’re dictating blog posts, articles, novels, short stories, video scripts, or plain books. You’re going to run into this problem again and again.

The good news is as you practice, you start developing an eye for truly unique and substantial ideas. Now you may be thinking to yourself, “Okay, I’ll just focus on ideas that I haven’t talked about before.”

That’s not good enough. They have to be unique, but they also have to push the needle.

You have to cover new ground. You have to add value to the life of the person reading whatever it is you’re dictating.

Uniqueness or novelty is not enough. It has to be substantive.

Step #9: Drill down to get rid of repetitive questions

As you practice this, you quickly realize that you’re actually asking yourself a lot of questions as you dictate. This is perfectly normal and is to be expected.

In fact, if you’re not doing this, you’re doing it wrong.

Here’s the secret. Allow yourself to drill down onto these unique and substantive ideas while asking yourself questions about them.

When you focus on the obvious and then work your way to similarities, contrasts, comparisons, and all that good stuff, you’re constantly asking yourself questions like “Have I said this before?” or “How does this push what I’m saying to a whole new level?”

“Is this really adding new value to the understanding of the person reading what I’m dictating?” You have to ask yourself these questions again and again as the words roll off your tongue.

If the answer is no, then your mind should shift to subsections or segments of the idea that are important and valuable enough.

For example, I can talk about making money online through dictation blogging by just hammering home the point that you can produce 50,000 to 60,000 words per day of blog posts.

Everybody knows that if we just spit out garbage, people wouldn’t want to read it.

Sure, you may be targeting keywords and you may be asking certain questions that people search Google for, but once they read your answer, it becomes obvious that you’re just looping around in circles or you’re dancing around the answer. It’s a waste of their time.

I can keep talking about that, but I’m not really going to be adding much value until I talk about using that increased speaking speed to focus on social media content, outreach to people that are influential in your niche and who can possibly publish your content in exchange for a backlink, as well as podcasting or any other alternative forms that your content can take.

These are the unique idea directions that naturally come to me when I allow myself to trust the repetitive questions that are always cranking in my mind the moment I develop one idea and thinking of moving on to the next.

It has to be something new and useful.

The good news is the more you drill down, the more practical and useful directions open up to you.

Step #10: Drill down in another direction

Once you have milked the most obvious direction of your outline item, it’s very tempting to just call it a day.

You’re thinking to yourself, “I did my best and it looks like I talked about what I needed to talk about.” Don’t settle.

If you really want to produce a lot of useful content, don’t give in to this temptation because if you develop this habit, you would quickly find out that your mind is very lazy precisely because it’s very smart.

It will find the most efficient way for you to describe a concept and give you the feeling that you have explored it enough. Emotionally, you’re thinking that you put in the work.

You’ve attacked it at many different points, you explored different areas, and you’ve laid out all the unique ideas that are useful to the reader.

At that point, it’s very emotionally tempting to just go back to your outline and get on with it. If you get into this habit, you actually start shrinking your transcription.

Your mind is so efficient that you can quickly zip through the “usual suspects” of topic coverage and quickly move from outline point to point.

You’re feeling really good because you think you’ve covered so much material. This has happened to me.

I dictate blog posts all the time. This is how it usually happens.

I thought I was very thorough, I’ve spit out several examples, well at least that what it seemed like.

But when I get the transcription, it’s actually much shorter than I thought it would be.

I could’ve sworn that when transcribed, my dictation would total at least 50,000 words. But what I got back was 30,000.

No, it’s not because I instructed the transcriber to edit hard. They just transcribed with normal editing discretion.

What happened was my mind was playing tricks on me. It felt so good to mentally process an idea.

But it turned out that it was just my emotional excitement of finishing the outline quickly. You fix this problem by insisting on drilling down in another direction.

It doesn’t matter if you’re chasing after word count or you’re trying to make sure that you offer as many different possibilities or ideas in the final version of your content. You have to do it.

Step #11: Go back to your outline

It’s important to go back to the outline at the right spot. I know it sounds almost funny, but you’d be surprised as to how often I would go back to my previous point in the outline.

I end up repeating myself and wasting a lot of time as well as my transcriber’s time and attention. It’s important to go back to where you left off.

This takes mental discipline. This is no time to edit yourself. If you’re feeling that you did a lousy job covering a previous point, there’s no need to go back to that previous section in the outline.

Just get on with it. Once you develop this level of emotional discipline, everything will start to fall into place because you know that there is no rewind button.

As I mentioned in my post on the benefits of dictation blogging, with dictation, you get to say the content once and you move on. This is so much better than manual writing where you edit yourself and get caught up in an endless loop.

Every time you go through that loop, you’re burning precious time. Before you know it, you stand up from your desk and realize that you put in 8 hours but only have 2,000 words to show for it.

Step #12: Fill in ideas that come to you

As you go through your outline, sometimes, it becomes so clear that there has to be a filler segment in the outline. Maybe you didn’t think about it when you first dictated your outline or it was just completely off the radar.

Maybe you had somebody else write your outline and didn’t think of it. It doesn’t matter.

The more you drill down on each outline point, the clearer these gaps appear in your mind. At this point, you have to pull the trigger and fill in ideas as they come to you.

Here’s a tip. The first few bullet points on your outline shouldn’t jump the gun because at that point if you’re like most people and you’re thinking at the rate of thousands of miles per hour, all these seemingly “hot ideas” just pop out of nowhere.

They come at you from all directions. Don’t give in.

Why? You haven’t familiarized yourself enough with the information of your outline to make a clear and wise decision.

It’s only after you’ve gone through at least 3 bullet points in the outline that you would have enough command over the materials to make the right call as to which new bullet points to put in.

This is where you have to set aside your voice recorder and quickly get on your keyboard and type in the new bullet points. The faster you do it, the more ideas you can reduce to writing.

The same goes if you’re dictating using a condenser podcasting microphone. When I’m dictating from home, I use a podcasting setup.

You have to reach out to your keyboard and type in those lines.

Do yourself a big favor though. Try to boil down those key points into their most cogent and potent form.

After that, cover them as you go through your outline. Drill down hard.

Step #13: Make sure you cover all points of your outline

As I’ve mentioned earlier, when you’re doing dictations, sometimes your mind plays tricks on you. You get this feeling that you’re the next Albert Einstein.

You talked about a topic and you just beat it to the ground. You killed it. You hit it from all corners, all directions, upward, downward, backward, forward. It’s as if you knew it like the back of your hand.

You can’t help but feel like a million bucks. But once you get the transcription, it turns out that what you talked about was very shallow. You didn’t even get close.

You just basically scratched the surface. This is why it’s crucial to cover all the points of your outline because when you experience that problem that I just described and you stop halfway through your outline, you have to redo the project.

This has happened to me several times. I felt so good about one part of the outline that I was sure that those sections alone would be worth thousands of words. Boy was I wrong.

Don’t go with your feelings. Just get it all out.

The best way to do this is to make sure you hammer each and every point of your outline.

Whether it’s the pre-existing outline that you’re working with or new bullet points that you just type because ideas crystallized as you were dictating, you have to get it all out.

The good news is if you just produced too much, you can edit later. But it’s much better to take off after producing too much than adding stuff in long after the excitement of dictation has gone when you produce too little.

Sum it all up

Step #14: Think of summing it all up as you dictate

In the final 30% of your outline, start thinking of how to sum it all up. Don’t get me wrong, you’re not thinking of your concluding paragraph.

Instead, in the final 30%, you should use one of the thinking tracks that you’re operating on to get a holistic view of what you’ve covered.

This is important because it may turn out that you have yet to make your strongest points. Again, this has happened to me before painfully.

I’ve had clients come back to me and say “It’s great that you talk about points X, Y, and Z. The problem is nobody’s going to take you seriously until you establish your knowledge of A, B, and C.”

This is crucial. When you are near the final stages of the dictation, think about summing it all up.

This will force you to recognize or remember the strongest points of the outline. This way, you don’t overlook anything.

At worst, you can make a verbal notation so that in the transcript, it would say “edit to add this section to a previous point.”

It’s going to take a little work, but it’s better than just blowing those points altogether. Remember, you’re trying to add value to people’s lives.

You’re trying to give them information that they need to take things to the next level. You’re not doing them any big favors by assuming they would know certain ideas or just blowing it off altogether because you forgot.

Step #15: Throw out idea nuggets or ‘mini-outlines’ you can edit later

One of the most common problems that I always face when dictating content involves new ideas. For example, I verbally wrote a 700 page novel on Vikings.

It was going well. It took me about a week to work through the outline and it felt really good.

But throughout the process, all these ideas were just jumping out at me. The Vikings actually had a lot to do with the monks in Ireland, the Anglo-Saxon Germans in England, and, at a later point, Muslims in the tip of Spain and Northern Africa.

As I explored those portions of the novel, things got really confusing because my mind was operating in 5,000 directions at once. I was supposed to talk about Jarls and Viking berserkers and longboats, but all I could think about are exotic, smoke-filled rooms in Muslim Spain while you could hear the calls to prayer waft out of the tall minarets surrounding the Mosques.

This is where idea nuggets come in. When a very strong idea comes to you as you transcribe, tell yourself or the transcriber to note in the audio “(idea)”.

Come up with your own system. There’s really no one right answer.

Just come up with a notation system that makes sense to you. This way when you look at the transcript, you can see that there are different directions that it can take you.

Copy and paste it or cut it out of the transcription or the soft version and maybe write blog posts, books, novels, short stories, or whatever else out of these idea nuggets.

I understand what you’re thinking. Why not just stop thinking about them and get back to your main focus?

That’s a problem because when you come up with idea nuggets, they’re actually a happy byproduct of your peak creative intensity. The last thing that you want to do is to say to yourself “I’m thinking about the wrong things. I’m talking nonsense here, so I’m going to stop and get my bearings and go back to my original direction.”

What do you think the effect will be? That’s right. You shut yourself up.

Don’t be surprised if the creative juices just dry up instantly. Again, I know. It has happened to me before.

If you’re working on a 700 page epic on Vikings and all these idea nuggets start hitting you, the last thing you want to do is to stop and refocus your mind away from these mini outlines or story ideas.

Leave them in the dictation. You know you’re going to cut them out. Don’t let them trip you up because they will happen.

They’re not things to be avoided because I’ve written amazing short stories and blog posts off idea nuggets. Think of them as happy accidents that can give you a headstart for other creative work in the future.

If anything, they act as seeds. Treat them as such. Don’t think that they’re something that you have to actively work against because you’re just going to end up tripping yourself up.

focus on the right words

Step #16: Don’t worry about getting the words right as long as you enunciate clearly

A lot of people are sticklers for proper pronunciation and annunciation. I get all that.

But the problem is the more mental energy you invest in saying the words correctly, the more likely you’re going to trip yourself up.

Remember, you only have so much mental energy to work with. You wake up with a certain fixed amount of willpower.

Are you really going to blow all of that on making sure that every word is correct or pronounced like the King’s English? Or are you just going to let the energy flow and take you from one idea and fully develop it onto the next?

You pay a heavy price for putting too much focus on form instead of doing what you should be doing and keeping your eyes fixed on the substance.

The final word on how to speak faster for dictations

By following the 16 steps above, you will be able to not only speak faster when dictating content, but you’d also learn how to be a more disciplined thinker.

The problem with dictating creative work compared to just reciting facts and data is that you are engaging your personal intuition, creativity, and resourcefulness all at once. It’s all about your imagination.

When you get the hang of trusting yourself by taking one direction instead of another, things start to flow and the quality of your final transcribed work improves over time.

Don’t expect to get it perfect overnight. That’s not going to happen. Instead, enjoy your journey from typing 35 words per minute to producing 20,000, 40,000, then maybe 60,000 words per day.

It’s all about discipline and going through this amazing journey of self-discovery. Remember, you are learning how your mind thinks. You’re identifying your creative habits along the way.

Treat it like an amazing field trip. It’s not a chore and it’s definitely not a job because as I keep saying in this post if you’re serious about learning how to speak faster, you have to overcome the emotional hurdles that are dragging you back and keeping you down.

People can do this because I’ve done it. If I can do it, you can do it too. What’s keeping you is emotional.

It’s not intellectual and it’s not something that you can not fix. I wish you all the best in your dictation efforts. Enjoy the journey.