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How to Get More Done With the Sound of Your Voice

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Talking man

This is a guest post by Kayla Matthews. She is a productivity blogger and efficiency enthusiast. You can find her on ProductivityTheory.com, on The Huffington Post, and on Google+ and Twitter.


Anyone else hate typing or texting everything out? I sure do.

Wouldn’t it be so much easier if you could just talk to whatever you’re using and have it do exactly what you want it to?

Imagine telling your phone to send a text to someone, telling a speaker to play some music or even telling a smart hub to turn on your AC and cool down your house. Sound familiar?

That’s because the technology already exists, and it’s in the form of AI voice assistants. With the likes of Alexa, Siri, Google Now and Microsoft’s Cortana, you can speak like a King — or Queen — and have your demands carried out almost immediately.

Alexa, order more paper towels. Siri, what’s the capital of Missouri? Okay Google, set an appointment for next Thursday at 4 p.m.

The best part is if you learn how to use these platforms correctly, you can seriously improve your productivity both at work and at home. No more bumbling around with your phone to find an app — just ask your voice assistant. They can do just about anything from performing web queries to ordering new products.

Driving and have your hands occupied? No problem! You can just dictate what needs to happen to your voice assistant, and most of the time, they will do it all for you. You can even use voice assistants at home while on your computer. There are tools that will allow you to talk to type everything out. It’s faster and more efficient, especially since most people type only 40 words per minute.

Sound crazy? There’s no way modern AI and voice assistants are this advanced, right?

Let’s take a look at some of the things you can do, all with the sound of your voice. Maybe by the time we’re done, you’ll have changed your mind.

What Can Alexa Do?

You may know Amazon’s voice assistant from the Echo platform, including devices like the Amazon Echo, Tap, Dot, Show and Look. There are a ton of things she can do through Amazon, which makes perfect sense. But what you may not know is there’s a ton of things Alexa can do on her own, too.

Have Alexa Read You a Book

Do you regularly listen to audiobooks or podcasts? Great! Did you know you can actually have Alexa read you books, content and more?

Thanks to the built-in apps, Alexa can play audiobooks through Kindle Unlimited, Audible or even the media-streaming services. You can even use a variety of controls like “go to chapter X” or “move forward X pages” to get her to navigate through a book.

Want her to read you a book at night before bed? No problem! “Alexa, stop reading the book in 40 minutes.” She’ll do just that — hopefully by that time, you’re asleep.

Teach You a New Language

Ever thought of learning French? What about brushing up on your Spanish? Alexa offers Spotify support, and guess what Spotify features? If you guessed language-learning playlists, then you guessed correctly! Alexa can teach you a variety of new languages such as German, Italian, Swedish, Chinese, Russian, Arabic and more.

Since it’s facilitated through Spotify, you can pause, play and suspend playlists at any time — great for those morning and afternoon commutes. Just keep in mind the language-playlists are a Spotify premium feature.

Look up Topics for Research

Trying to do some research for a school or work project? Alexa can actually query Wikipedia for specific topics. While not all the information found on Wikipedia is credible, it’s still a great place to learn and experience new things. At the very least, you can get inspiration for other web queries about your particular topic.

With Alexa, you can spend hours upon hours browsing the various Wikipedia pages and content. You can always ask Alexa to “tell me more” and she will read you the full Wikipedia page you’re currently on. Initially, she’ll do a quick query for the answer to a question or topic, and you can tell her to continue reading or move on.

It’s a great way to look up new things.

Answer Your Strange Questions

It’s funny when you think about it, but how many sleepless nights have you stayed awake thinking about a strange, absolutely ridiculous question?

Where do babies come from? Are we alone in the universe? How much bacon do you have to eat to induce a heart-attack?

There may not always be a sensible answer from Alexa, but it beats trying to come up with the answers on your own for hours. Just pose the question to Alexa, and she will return what you need to know — or what she thinks you need to know anyway. That’s good enough for us.

Catch up on Current Events

At any given time, you can simply ask Alexa to update you on the news. There are a few commands for this which include “Alexa, what’s new,” and “What’s my flash briefing?” Alexa will immediately begin calling out the recent news alerts for you and all related details. If you hear something you’re not interested in, you can simply skip ahead by saying “next,” or you can stop with “cancel.”

In addition, a card will appear in the Alexa app for each story read. You can interact with it to get more information. That’s one of the best parts of Alexa — she works seamlessly with a smartphone app to offer even more interactions and support.

What Can Siri Do?

Siri is best known as an Apple exclusive personal voice assistant, and you can interact with her across a variety of iOS devices, including the new Apple HomeKit platform — which interfaces with smart home devices.

She was the original Alexa, and since her conception, she continues to receive support for more interactions. Here are some of the most useful things you can do, just by talking to Siri.

Identify a Song

Yes, there are apps that will listen to whatever is playing and tell you what song, artist or album they hail from. But you can also just ask Siri. She’ll listen in and provide results through SHAZAM.

Make Dinner Reservations

Making reservations at your favorite restaurant can be a pain, especially if you end up waiting on hold for a while. Believe it or not, Siri can actually make reservations for you through OpenTable. Just tell her what restaurant, how big your party is, the time and date, and Siri will search for an open reservation. If she can’t find the appropriate time, she’ll offer several options on the same date, and you can choose between them.

The command goes a little something like this.

“Siri, make a reservation for four at Applebee’s at 7 p.m. on November 17, 2017.”

Yes, Applebee’s. Classy, right?

Find and Read Emails

Tired of searching through your archived messages, trash bin or inbox for a specific message? Just tell Siri a keyword to look for — you can even use a specific contact — and she’ll help you find what you’re looking for.

Once she finds a few emails that meet your parameters, she can either read them back one at a time, or you can select the one you’re looking for.

Quick Conversions

Need to know how many cups are in a gallon? Want to know how many miles per hour are in a kilometer per hour? Need to convert American money to British pounds and want to know the conversion rates?

Easy! Just ask Siri.

Take Personal Notes or Memos

In the heat of the moment, when you come up with a great idea you want to remember for later, you may not have the time to whip out a journal, notebook or sticky note to write it down. No worries! Siri can do it all for you.

Just ask Siri to take a note, and then say what you want her to record. The best part is that it will sync to iCloud when she’s done, so you can access all your notes from your other iOS devices like your Mac.

What Can a Desktop AI Do?

There are a variety of voice and AI assistants for a desktop that can help you improve productivity, too —or you can make your own using a special API.

Whichever platform or software tool you decide to use, the more important concern is what you can do with them. So, what can you do?

Prioritize Important Emails

By using a tool like Knowmail, you can employ the power of artificial intelligence to weed out spam and unnecessary emails. This makes your day much easier on Monday when you come back into the office and find an inbox filled to the brim.

Pair it with a voice-assistant or text-to-speech tool, and you can have all your important emails read back to you out loud, too.

Fight Procrastination

Ever have times where you decide to respond to an important email later or deal with a pressing issue after getting some work done? We all do it, but it’s even more embarrassing when you forgot to even go back and complete the task.

An app like Trove allows you to see emails you may still need to compose or reply to. It includes a unique ‘Radar’ feature that helps remind you some of the emails and tasks you may have procrastinated doing earlier in the day. It can also help you prioritize emails that require a response.

Type With Your Voice

Google Docs actually includes a neat — and super handy — type-with-your-voice feature that allows you to dictate to your computer to create a document or text. You will need a microphone to make use of the tool, so keep that in mind.

It’s not like Siri or Alexa, where you have a bevy of commands and options at your fingertips, but that doesn’t make it any less amazing. It’s especially useful if you’re terrible or slow at typing on a keyboard. Just speak clearly to your computer, and Google Docs will type everything out for you.

Additional Ways to Use Your Voice

While we have covered some of the platform-specific functions you can perform, we thought it would be a great idea to quickly discuss some of the universal things you can do across most voice assistant and AI platforms.

Please do realize, individual support is going to depend on the platform. Google Home and Microsoft’s Cortana, for instance, may do things Siri and Alexa can’t, and vice versa. In some cases, even when they do the same thing, they have different ways of going about it. You’ll want to reference your voice assistant platform’s user manual for more information if you’re having trouble.

Get to Work on Time

Not only can these voice assistants be used to pull up directions, but they can also check traffic along your normal route. If you regularly commute using a certain road, highway or otherwise, then the assistant will let you know — thanks to GPS navigation — if and when you may encounter delays.

Check Your Flight

Google Home can do this well, but so can the other platforms. You can check what time your flight is set to leave, and you can also check whether or not your flight is on schedule. If it’s delayed, the assistant will let you know and offer a relatively accurate timeframe to follow.

Online Voice Shopping

Alexa will always shop through Amazon first — hopefully, we don’t need to point out why. The other AI assistants will vary depending on what products you’re looking for. Regardless, you can ask your voice assistant to do a search for a particular product, and then place an order with your retailer of choice.

So, if you’re running out of toilet paper or milk, you should be able to order some more without any hassle — or hands.

Schedule a Meeting

Do you have an important meeting or event coming up? Want to make sure you remember it? Just tell your voice assistant to take note of the date, time and event name, and you’re all set. You can even schedule meetings or conference calls with other contacts. Google’s assistant, for instance, can even ping participating contacts via Gmail.

Play Music

Want to listen to a particular song or artist? No problem. Just ask your voice assistant to play some tunes. In most cases, you will also be able to choose your media app of choice, like Pandora or Spotify.

Some assistants will even let you play music to remote speakers. For instance, if you have multiple Echo devices, you can tell Alexa to play tunes in a certain room. How awesome is that?

Get Some Advice

Want to see a movie but don’t know movie times? Visiting somewhere new and have no idea what’s good to eat? Want to find a place nearby where you can go dance or indulge in some adult beverages? No problem. Just ask your voice assistant.

All of the AI platforms include integration with social service apps to help you find locations, events and businesses nearby. You can even get specific, like asking where the closest sporting goods store is.

Check the Weather

Getting ready to leave for work or preparing to head out on your lunch break and want to know the weather? Just ask your voice assistant for the current weather information, and they will relay everything you need.

Honestly, you’re probably looking to know whether it’s going to rain or not — they will tell you that, so no worries.

Create a Shopping List

The resulting app will differ depending on what platform you use. Google will use Keep, while Alexa will use Evernote and so on — but that doesn’t change the fact that you can interact with all the assistants in the same way.

Just call out your shopping list, and the voice assistant will add all your items. With Alexa, you can even create a shopping list tied to your Amazon account. Once your list is full of items, she’ll order everything for you and have it shipped right to your house.

Send a Text or Place a Call

This relates more to the phone-based AI and voice assistants, but through an app like Skype, you could theoretically make calls from your desktop computer, so there’s that.

If you want to send a text message or call a particular contact, just tell your assistant, and they will do your bidding. Almost all of them will even read back the message after composing it, so you can be sure there were no glaring typos.

Voice calls can be synced with Bluetooth to offer true hands-free support. Your assistant will call the contact and immediately connect the call for you.

Play a Game or Have Some Fun

One of the most fascinating things about modern voice assistants is that they can have a little fun, sometimes even at your expense. Siri can tell jokes and make amusing remarks. Google Assistant can be used to play games like tic-tac-toe or pull up random funny videos. Alexa will even have some fun from time to time when you query silly topics.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and enjoy yourself when communicating with your assistant. You may be surprised at what they can do and how they react to you.

Images by Rawpixel, Amazon and Apple


This is a guest post by Kayla Matthews. She is a productivity blogger and efficiency enthusiast. You can find her on ProductivityTheory.com, on The Huffington Post, and on Google+ and Twitter.

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