Folks were never meant to communicate with their thumbs--except maybe hitchhikers. Fortunately, voice interface technology has come a long way in a short time. Talk instead of type next time you encounter any of these routine work situations:

1. Creating articles, blogs or speeches

Google Docs, Apple, Microsoft Word, and other word processing programs have voice interface options that easily turn your speaking into text. I'm a big fan of Google Docs. It's what I used to dictate this article. Sure, I go back and format the old fashioned way, but for drafting--voice rocks. On Google Docs, you just open Tools in the menu and turn on Voice Typing. In Microsoft Word, go to Edit, Start Dictation.

2. Setting appointments and reminders.

I love setting calendar appointments using voice. Pairs well with driving, laundry, dishes, or cooking dinner. Here's what I say: "Hey Siri, set an appointment at 10 a.m. tomorrow. The event title is 'Coffee with Sam.'" This also works with Google Android and others.

Many smartphones also let you check your schedule by voice. You just say, "Hey Google" or "Hey Siri," "What is my schedule for tomorrow?" or "What does my day look like Wednesday."

The smart phone voice command is also super useful for setting reminders when you're in the middle of something and can't put your hands on a keyboard. You can just say, "Hey Siri remind me to. . . . " It shows up the next day as a reminder. Refine the request by saying when precisely to remind you, too, like "Hey Siri, remind me Sunday at 8:00 am to go for a run."

3. Ordering supplies.

When you find you need something--coffee beans, paper, flour, laundry soap--your hands are usually busy, right? Not an easy time to jot a note. Amazon's Echo makes adding items to your shopping list as easy as, "Hey Alexa, add this to my shopping list."

Jean-Luc VanHulst, president of Write2Market, a digital marketing agency, recently got Amazon Alexa in the company's kitchen. "We don't have an office manager, but we do have ongoing needs for everything from pens to paper towels. Alexa is like our office mom--she gets us the stuff we need. can tell Alexa to put something on the list."

4. Reading and responding to texts.

Jennifer Silverberg, CEO of SmartCommerce, spends a lot of time on the road. She says she uses voice commands to, "Read and compose texts, open apps, answer simple questions, play music, and start phone calls. It's probably all boring, but faster and less taxing than doing myself."

5. Home automation.

Who needs house calls when you can call the house direct? Serial entrepreneur and Inc. author Eric Holtzclaw says, "We use Amazon's Echo--Alexa--to turn lights on and off throughout the house, set alarms for food and to wake up, and use Ring at our door to avoid telemarketers and make sure our packages are delivered properly. Alexa and the new Dot is an easy way to ease into home automation!"

6. Navigating.

When I travel, I like to talk to Google Maps to navigate. My preferred move is to hear the directions back in my headphones, which do have a speaker, too. Navigating back to my hotel at night by foot, this feels a lot better than staring into my bright phone on a dark sidewalk. I like the way the earphones / navigation combo allows me to talk quietly to my maps, and hear back the directions privately. (You are totally forgiven for steering a wide berth around that woman mumbling to herself on the street corner.)

I also like telling the car to, "navigate to." Just as you're getting settled, you can tell the car where you want to go. Several cars have this kind of feature; the language might be slightly different on yours but it's worth checking out. If you don't have navigation in the car, Google maps works just fine in this situation, too.

Let me know in the comments if you have any other favorite speaking short cuts that are saving you time and energy--and take those thumbs on vacation via voice.

Published on: Oct 27, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.