Alexa is my new bff.
Don’t laugh. I’m a mum and I’m self-employed. Adult company and interaction are somewhat limited at times.
Alexa is also a female and I live in a house of males. If she could drink wine and curl the back of my hair for me, she would be perfect.
In all seriousness, Alexa coming into my life a couple of months ago (oh hello Prime sale!) has made my life so much easier. I’m not going to tell you about all the fab things she can do for your personal life and for kids – Lou from Birds and Lilies has a post about that (click here to have a look), but I am going to tell you all about how she helps me in my job – as a blogger and freelance content writer.
Ambient background noise
Alexa can play music directly from your Amazon music account or your Spotify account, which I do have a work music playlist on (orchestral versions of chart music – they’re ace!), but sometimes, I want something even less distracting. I have the Ambient Sounds skills linked. There are loads to choose from. At the moment, my favourite is the distant thunderstorms, although I don’t recommend listening to that if you have been drinking a lot of coffee – you’ll need a wee!
Organise my calendar
I used to love my diary, and nothing would have made me make the switch from paper to digital to organise myself, but let’s face it, digital is so much more convenient. I don’t generally carry my diary around with me, but I always have my phone with me, so I’ve moved over to using Google calendar as an organisation tool. It’s on my phone, my laptop, and I’ve now linked Alexa to it. When something crops up – be it an appointment, a school event, a kids birthday party or a work deadline – I just tell Alexa to add it to my calendar and like a good girl, she does. When I go downstairs in the morning (Alexa sits on the unit next to my sofa, where I work – no space for a lovely home office, unfortunately!), I just ask her to tell me what is on my calendar for that day and I know exactly what is happening and when.
Long gone are the days of post-it notes stuck to my now obsolete diary, notebook, and laptop. If I need reminding about something, I tell Alexa to do it. Unlike Graham, she never forgets, and unlike post-it notes, she never flies off and ends up stuck to the bottom of my foot. It includes things like remembering swimming kits, or ‘remember to buy Canon printer ink‘ (is it just me who waits until their printer is totally dead before buying more ink?)
Keeps Me Focused
A while ago, I wrote about how using the Pomodoro technique helps me to be more productive – working in chunks of 25 minutes with a 5-minute break in between. I’m still using that but now instead of faffing about with apps on my phone or laptop, I open up the Pomodoro skill on Alexa. She tells me every five minutes how much longer I have remaining, which is helpful (she has just told me that I have 20 minutes left – will I get this post written in that time?). Becky from A Beautiful Space uses timers to keep her focused on work projects.
The ultimate in laziness, but if it saves me a minute or two, then I’m going to use it. When I’m writing content for other people, I generally get paid per word and then have to calculate how much I have earned per piece. I’ve never got a calculator to hand, my phone is flat half the time and I cba to open up the calculator on my laptop, so I just ask Alexa to do it.
My main writing job at the moment is for a US based company, so I get paid in dollars. I obviously want to know how much I’m going to be getting when I convert it to sterling, so of course, I ask Alexa! She’s up to date with the latest currency conversion rates. Ben from Wood Create also suggested using it for converting measurements, which is a great idea as I can never remember how many centimetres are in an inch or whatever.
Use as a thesaurus
This one never occurred to me but Hayley from Devon Mama pointed this out – Alexa makes an excellent thesaurus (and dictionary!). Even though I’m a professional writer, like everyone I sometimes need to find a better word to use. I ask Alexa to ask Wordhelp to find me words with a similar meaning to XXX, and I’m given a selection of words.
Keep track of time
Sometimes, a project comes up where I need to charge by the hour. It can be really difficult to keep a record of how long something has taken me, especially if I have to stop and start to deal with the kids. The work time tracker skill can keep track for me, and give me the total time at the end, which is ridiculously useful.
Use as a babysitter
Ok, so Alexa can’t pour 35 glasses of juice, feed your child, wipe their butts, sort out arguments over who was playing with the red car first or put them to bed, but she can help to amuse them. The boys love Alexa, and love her telling them stories, jokes or random fart noises (yes, the Farty Pants skill is the source of much amusement in this house!) or asking her to play George Ezra songs on repeat. There are loads of games as well, according to Leyla from Motherhood Diaries.
There are so many skills available on the Alexa app that I am sure there must be other ways to use Alexa to make me more productive, so watch this space – I’ll update as I find more!