I was super skeptical about incorporating her into my life because like anyone else I have been convinced that Alexa was going to spy on me and tell all my secrets. Fortunately, I have been writing about my mental health since 2014. My entire life is online, I have no secrets! Once that worry was out of the way, I was able to relax and try to figure out what on earth I could use Alexa for. Yeah, she can play music.
In fact, since I have more than one device, she can play music throughout each room of my house. I can play music on my phone. Or my TV, or any of the other devices in here. So I wanted to know what Alexa could do for me that I couldn’t accomplish with my other devices.
Here’s what she does that has made her indispensable! DISCLAIMER: I write about Alexa because she is the only home assistant I have experience with. Many have reported that their home assistants do very much the same thing, so you’re welcome to test those out too! Also, I am an Amazon affiliate so any of those amazon links in the post you click will contribute to my affiliate earnings.
#1 Adding Items to My Grocery List
I used to lie to myself about keeping a grocery list. I would spend the time to write everything out carefully and feel very organized and smug until I showed up at the grocery store and began to frantically search for my (now gone) list. Not so smug now, am I?
So what does Alexa do that makes this grocery list issue a thing of the past? She makes it easy for me! All I do is say “Alexa, add _____ to my shopping list” and she does.
Big deal, you still have to remember the list, right?
When I ask Alexa to add anything to my list, it syncs automatically with the Alexa app on my phone, and now I have a list that doesn’t get left behind! I can check the items off as I go, and she even keeps track of my Amazon purchase history so I know the last time I grabbed an item. Head here to learn more about how to create a shopping list with Alexa.
#2 Buying items before I run out
Speaking of items making it onto the list, I am the WORST at forgetting to keep the basic stuff in the house. You know, things like salt, pepper, sugar, etc. things you always need. Kitchen staples, if you will.
They’re so basic that I always trick myself into believing that I’ll remember them without putting them onto the list. I don’t do that anymore. In my kitchen, there is an Echo Show and if I see I’m out of sugar, I yell “Alexa, add sugar to my cart” which she does, pulling from my previous order history to do so.
If she has the correct item, I can (and do) tell her to buy it now so by the time it shows up on my porch I’ve long forgotten about it and it feels like magic. This is my favorite way to keep the non-perishables flowing in the house.
#3 Turning things off and on
This is where it gets fun for some, frightening for others. I let Alexa control several of the devices in my home via a smart plug. Right now I have a wax warmer, two fans, and an air filter, and an electric fireplace that all run by a smart plug.
Is it a little stuffy? Would I like some ambiance? Are my allergies flaring up? No need to worry because Alexa can handle it all. This gets especially fun as you’re learning to do more with Alexa, and you can sync up steps to combine certain actions, like in this video:
#4 Who knows if I turned that off? Alexa does.
I am the QUEEN of getting to the stop sign on the way out of my neighborhood and questioning: did I turn the wax warmer off? Is the heater off? Guess what? I can check my Alexa app for that very thing.
Every device I have hooked up to the Alexa app will indicate from within the app if it is turned off or on, and I have the ability to turn the device off or on from within the app.
The other fun part? You can set these things to turn on or off based on whether you are going to your house (turning the porch light on, for instance) or leaving your house (turn off the wax warmer and the heater so I NEVER have to worry if they’re on). Having those types of things done automatically for us can take a lot of the guesswork and worry out of life, and isn’t THAT a relief??
#5 Alarms and reminders are a yell away
Did you just think of something you don’t want to forget but also don’t have time to write down? Yelling at Alexa to remind me to check the soup in 10 minutes, or call the person I said I was going to call “right back” in 20 minutes is so much easier than having to
A. Remember what I am supposed to do when the timer goes off or
B. Set the timer and stop what I was doing and see something else I should have been doing and NEVER make it back to the thing I was doing.
So it helps to keep me in the flow of the moment while also attending to the things my working memory doesn’t do well. It’s a support for the brain like all good accommodations are.
#6 I’m not sucked into my phone
Every time I touch my phone I get into notifications. Then I’m responding to messages, checking my schedule, checking my email, playing a game, or otherwise working on something other than what I picked the phone up for.
When I can call out “hey what’s the weather like” or “what time is it” or “what’s next on my calendar?” it puts me in a place where I’m able to keep my hands off of my phone more.
Less phone suck time means more time to be productive, or — OR more time to do things I really want to do without the distraction of the phone pulling so much of my time that I can’t do anything else but mindlessly scroll for an hour or two. Phone suck . . . sucks. Alexa helps me to avoid that too.
#7 It syncs with my calendar!
My coaching clients know well the sound of Alexa reminding me of my appointment schedule. That’s because Alexa reminds me at 1 hour until an appointment and 15 minutes until an appointment that I have something happening and I need to start moving towards it.
My phone reminders and my notifications all work well, but there’s something about a verbal reminder that makes a HUGE difference when you’re trying to manage your schedule. The verbal reminder grabs my attention in a way that a notification (a thing I occasionally blow off) doesn’t always.
#8 Alexa calls my lost phone
We all lose our phones, and it’s a pain to think about how to find them. Did you know Alexa can call your cell phone? It’s true! If you have the app downloaded on both your phone AND your Echo device, say “Alexa, call my phone” and it will ring like magic.
This has been a game-changer for me more than once when I couldn’t figure out where I put my phone or what pocket it had gotten shoved in. Once I started using this feature I realized how frequently I had forgotten where my phone was only to find it once Alexa found it for me.
#9 Alexa can play calming sounds
As technology advances, it has a natural tendency to creep into every aspect of our lives. However, the use of devices can come at a cost—increased stress and anxiety are common counter-effects from using too many screens.
Soothing sounds can help replace this with calming reminders of how things used to be: in-person face-to-face connections rather than digital interactions. Along with giving your peace of mind back, Alexa offers ambient noise that is best for studying or going straight to sleep at night.
It was such a relief to learn that I could have Alexa play one of my favorite meditations or sleep sounds to help me calm down when I was upset or to lull me into sleep. Alexa can play a variety of ambient noises for you to listen to at the best time. You can have Alexa remind you when it’s time to start your day with some gentle morning sounds or help yourself fall asleep by playing any of the relaxation sounds they provide.
#10 Incorporating new routines right on time
Alexa can help with schedules by making it easy to create reminders and juggle different scheduling changes. For example, Alexa can set up routines that run at different intervals such as a routine for an appointment on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
If you want to add new appointments or routine changes in the middle of the week, then you can simply ask Alexa to make those changes. This is helpful when your schedule changes and you need to change your routines quickly.
What if it was normal for someone to say “Alexa hold my 2:00 appointment at 3:15” or “add bathroom cleaning to my schedule tomorrow from 9-11 AM so I can have some time after yoga practice to clean while the kids nap.”
Alexa can be synced with your Google Calendar so that Alexa can tell you what appointments you have or reminders about events. This is really helpful for me because I don’t always remember what I have coming up and Alexa will remind me.
It’s really useful to be able to ask Alexa about my schedule, and this is definitely something I could see being a standard feature in the future. Maybe someday you’ll just tell her what you want to do when you wake up, or she will make suggestions for you based on your routine habits?
#11 Alexa suggests new recipes for me to try
Alexa is programmed with thousands of recipes and she can give you a list of new recipes to try every week. You can ask her questions about the ingredients needed, how long it takes to make the dish, etc.
This is super helpful because now I get excited when I see something like “Alexa add pork chops and potatoes” on my shopping list instead of having all of these great-sounding meals go unmade because I can’t organize what things I need to add into my life.
Alexa is the perfect tool for anyone who wants to be more organized and on time. With her help, you can start a new routine or change an old one with ease—no need to worry about forgetting things because Alexa will remind you when it’s time to get up in the morning or set off reminders throughout your day.
If you struggle with the areas that ADHD people are known to have challenges in, like organization and focus, a home assistant may be just what you need. A home assistant can help by reminding you of tasks (like taking medication at certain times), playing calming music when needed, or providing reminders for appointments- all from your smartphone. Have you tried a home assistant? How did it help you?