A few Christmases ago, I was lucky enough to get an Echo Dot as a Christmas gift, and I was introduced to Amazon’s Alexa. Technically, she’d already been a feature on my Kindle Fire, but I’d never found that to be particularly intuitive, much less useful. But, that’s a story for another day! I was finishing up my degree at the time, and now running a blog, a small press, and my own writing career, I’ve found my own little personal assistant to be a lifesaver. I’ve compiled some of the best Alexa skills (in my opinion), which I’m sure will come in handy for you, too!
Note that I frequently refer to my “assistant” as Alexa, but the more accurate phrasing would be Echo, or Alexa-enabled device.
This is by far the feature of my Alexa that I use most frequently. I don’t sleep well very often, but I’ve found that sleep sounds—especially thunderstorm sounds, my go-to—give me a bit better of a chance of getting a half-decent night’s sleep. This skill also works wonders in setting the scene for writing!
This is a pretty basic feature of the Echo Dot (and other Alexa products), but it’s nevertheless one of my favourites. Whenever I want to hear my music (or whatever else I’m listening to on my phone), I can easily connect over Bluetooth to listen right through Alexa! I do occasionally find myself frustrated when my phone’s audio switches just because of the proximity, but it’s a minor inconvenience in the long run.
I only recently returned to a Premium Spotify plan (it was actually a joint Christmas present for my entire family!) and integrating it with Alexa was perhaps the feature I was most excited for. Alexa, play [Song] on Spotify. This doesn’t work with free Spotify accounts, but, if you already invest in the Premium option, it’s a great resource. While I haven’t used it myself, you can also connect to Amazon Music, of course!
My parents, though, found a smart plug to be an absolute asset this holiday season—calling Alexa, turn on the Christmas tree to their Echo Show is particularly convenient! I only recently converted to a few smart devices myself, including a smart plug of my own and a set of smart bulbs for my overhead light. It’s been so nice to not trip over Fitz or his toys to turn the light off before bed!
I recently got back into podcasts for the first time in ages (with a post in the queue featuring a few of our favourites!), and I love that I can listen to them through Alexa! I usually use the speaker function to play Apple Podcasts from my phone, but there are plenty of options available.
This is a huge benefit when cooking–my mom keeps her Dot in her kitchen and it’s perfect for in-the-moment conversions. Tablespoon in the dishwasher and need the conversion to teaspoons? She’s got your back. And it’s not just recipe-related conversions! Get the right amounts for unit conversions for temperature, currency, and more with just a question.
I only recently learned about this feature, but I’m shocked that I hadn’t thought to check for it earlier! I’ve been through an assortment of different meditation programs since I first started meditating, so utilising Alexa’s capabilities to do so is an awesome addition. Right now, I’m checking out this skill, from Stop, Breathe, & Think.
This one’s pretty self-explanatory … it also comes in handy in the kitchen!
I’ve never been particularly stellar with math, and sometimes I just don’t want to do mental arithmetic. But do you know who will? Alexa!
There’s a whole array of different Alexa skills to teach you something new–Cat Facts is a personal (albeit goofy) favourite!
All too often I forget about this feature, but it’s one of the strongest of this device, in my opinion. Not only can you personalise your very own morning news brief (a “Morning Report,” if you will, Lion King fans), but you can add in some fun, like an “on this day in history” throwback or even a Supernatural exorcism, just in case ridding your apartment of demons is on the agenda.
Control your Calendar
Speaking of your agenda, if you use a digital calendar, such as Google Calendar (my personal favourite as of late), you can add events right through Alexa! Want to check what’s on your schedule for the day? Yep, she can do that, too.
Check your Fitbit stats
Alexa, ask Fitbit how I’m doing today. Use the Fitbit skill to keep an eye on your step count and other goals for the day!
Like any good device, you can use it to make sure you wake up on time! Terrified your normal alarm might not go off? I’ve been known to set more than one just in case–set up an alarm clock at 6:00, your phone at 6:15, and your Alexa at 6:30 to make sure you’ll always have something waking you up on time!
Add to your grocery or to-do lists
As you probably know, I love a good list! I keep most of my running to-do lists in my bullet journal, but Alexa is an absolute lifesaver on those rare occasions I don’t have my bujo in hand. Simply tell her to “add X to my to-do list” and it will be there waiting for you! You can even review your lists in the Amazon Alexa app.
The same principle applies to a grocery list. This is especially helpful when you run out of an ingredient as you’re cooking–if I don’t make a note at that moment, I’m bound to forget it!
Put the Law of Attraction to work
Check out the Daily Affirmation skill for some quick motivation to help you improve your mindset (and your life, by extension!).
I don’t utilise the many games of Alexa frequently, mostly because I don’t often have free time. But, there are so many options. Play trivia games, a virtual escape room, would you rather, and more through just your Alexa device!
Obviously I can’t touch on any and all possible uses for Alexa in this post–it would be hundreds of thousands of words long and no one would want to read! But, there are plenty more uses for Alexa (including lots that are just for fun, like Box of Cats)…and even more if you integrate IFTTT!
IFTTT is one of my favourite websites (perhaps in need of a post of its own in the future?). By attaching it to various other services, like your social media accounts, Evernote, or, yes, Alexa, you can trigger events to happen when something specific occurs: if this, then that. It’s not an Alexa-related trick, but it’s a lifesaver!
What are some of your favourite skills and uses for Alexa?