Some people will tell you that the smart assistant and smart speaker trend is an invasion of privacy and a waste of time. That’s ultimately up to you to decide. Me, I was skeptical at first too and I thought that owning an Amazon Echo might be fun, but really it was just for lazy people. Oh boy, was I wrong! They’re real game changers!
And while you can certainly turn to Alexa for some fun and games (I play Jeopardy! every day, and Song Quiz is thoroughly enjoyable too), Amazon’s smart assistant can actually make you a better working professional too. If you want to work smarter, not harder, try your hand at some of these things Alexa can do on your Echo device.
1. Tomato Helper
There’s something to be said about balancing your focused work sessions with well-timed breaks. To that end, you may have heard about something called the Pomodoro technique. Basically, you “earn” a five-minute break for every 25 minutes of focused work time, alternating between the two to maximize your productivity.
And while there are lots of web apps for that, having another browser tab open might be a bit too much of a distraction. Instead, consider getting this pomodoro timer Alexa skill. It counts down and lets you know when it’s time to get up from your desk to stretch your legs.
2. Flash Briefing
This isn’t so much about your focused work sessions as much as it is about having a healthy (and productive) morning routine. As you drink your morning coffee or do you morning exercise, ask Alexa to play your flash briefing. This can be completely customized, running through the core information that you want to know about the day ahead. It runs through several of these updates one right after the other.
You might get it to read your schedule, for instance. Me, I like getting a word of the day, the weather report, and some news from Reuters TV. You might like to enable GaryVee 365 for some Gary Vaynerchuk motivation. It’s completely up to you, running in the background as you get ready for your day.
3. Ambient Sounds
For a time, I worked in the living room with the TV on as my background chatter. Eventually, I found it took away too much from my ability to concentrate and I started to prefer dead silence. The truth is that it’s really hard to block out distractions when working from home, so sometimes you need some ambient noise to drown it all out.
In fact, you might find that you work more effectively with something playing the background. You’ll find a huge selection of Alexa skills that are designed specifically to fill your room with everything from space sounds to windy leaves. Alternatively, get Alexa to play some of your favorite tunes, though I’d recommend something not too catchy and something without lyrics. Baroque and jazz are good options.
4. Smart Home Routines
Alexa can be used to control your smart home products, like your smart plugs and smart lighting. You could go about issuing voice commands to control those one at a time, but a much smarter way to handle things is with routines and schedules, especially if you have a good idea of how your typical day tends to go.
Connect those smart bulbs and plugs together so everything turns on when you say, “Alexa, turn on home office.” This can even be tapped into your flash briefing, so when you say something like, “Alexa, good morning,” all your lights can turn on and the flash briefing can start playing too.
I don’t know about you, but if I don’t write something down, chances are I’m going to forget it. The problem with writing something down is that I can either lose that piece of paper, or I can forget to check that piece of paper. That’s where Alexa comes in. Simply say something like, “Alexa, remind me at (time) to (do a thing)” and she’ll let you know at the time you designate to do the thing you need to do.
This can be for 10 minutes from now or it can be a reminder for tomorrow. From an Internet marketing and pro blogging perspective, these sorts of reminders are great for updating your social media metrics or optimizing your campaign details, because those sorts of things can very easily slip through the cracks.
6. To-Do Lists
Speaking of forgetting things unless I write them down, to-do lists are instrumental to my workflow. If you can’t be bothered to write it down, just tell Alexa to do it for you. There are Alexa skills for a number of productivity and to-do solutions, like Any.do and Todoist. Tell Alexa to add something to your to-do list and it’ll be there when you’re ready to check what’s up next.
7. Toggl Timer
Even if you’re not actually trading hours for dollars in a traditional sense, it’s in your best interest to know how much time you’re actually spending on each project or task. This way, you can get a much better sense at your ROI, applying the Pareto principle to the ventures that actually generate the most money for you.
Toggl Timer is a time tracker that does exactly that. Just tell Alexa to start and end your timer, ascribing that time to your named project. Then, you can look back and know precisely how much time you spent doing what.
Do you have any favorite Alexa skills that have helped with your productivity or workflow?