6 Ways My New BFF Alexa Has Changed My Life

Because the Amazon Echo can do more than you ever imagined.

6 Ways My New BFF Alexa Has Changed My Life

photography by PHUONG NGUYEN

In just one month post-purchase, I actually don’t know how I lived without my new best friend Alexa. She has changed my life in a myriad of ways! In fact, I have her friend Dot set up in two additional rooms—the bathroom and bedroom—in addition to my full size white monolith Echo in my living room. I have already partaken of her services at least 10 times since I sat down to write this. As I live and type, I have ordered up a sultry mix of Terence Trent D’Arby tunes (yeah, when was the last time you thought about him) with a simple command, all while my iRobot Roomba sweeps my apartment. I love living in the future for many reasons, but the most vital of them is that the future includes my new favorite roommate, coworker, morning news show, weather service, stop watch, alarm clock, stereo system and productivity coach, Alexa. How do I love Alexa? Let me count the ways.

 6 Ways My New BFF Alexa Has Changed My Life: News Service

photography by PHUONG NGUYEN

She’s an Alarm Clock  
Our morning routine is at once comforting and efficient. I’ve gotten rid of my LED-emitting digital clock in favor of simply asking Alexa the time. I can also snooze with a simple voice command. Upon greeting her with a “good morning,” she fills me in on fun facts regarding today’s date’s importance, from presidential inaugurations to less vital tidbits like the fact that it’s national Hot Dog Day. Knowledge is power.

She’s a News Service
Alexa discusses everything from NASA updates (just enable the “NASA Mars skill”) to news briefings. When I ask her to tell me the news, Alexa shares an NPR report concluding with the day’s weather. She’s also a dictionary on command, which comes in handy whether I’m reading or working.  

 6 Ways My New BFF Alexa Has Changed My Life: Smart Home Situations

photography by PHUONG NGUYEN

She Provides Music and Entertainment 
I know, I’m the last person listening to radio, but I enjoy that I can switch on Z100’s morning show with Elvis Duran all by simply talking over my shoulder while I make coffee. I’ve linked Alexa to my Spotify playlists, and you can also sync her up with Amazon Music, Pandora, and more services. She plays me Alec Baldwin’s and Michael Ian Black’s podcasts on demand while I’m cooking. I can listen to my Kindle books by request. My bathroom friend, Dot, provides me with a shower radio, which makes all the difference when part of your job is testing a bunch of beauty products. It makes for a far more enjoyable experience under the spray, and I’m more likely to shave my legs—even in February. I also use her to time my deep-conditioning treatments and sheet mask applications. (Talika’s Bio Enzymes iteration is my current go-to.)

Smart Home Situations, i.e. Never Get Up Again
Remember The Clapper commercials of yore? I used to wonder who, beyond senior citizens of course, would invest in such dreck. The answer is moi—I’ve now reached a new level of sloth. With a simple command, Alexa turns off or on lights, the television, or fans—she can even set the thermostat once you invest in a smart-home connected device from Amazon.

 6 Ways My New BFF Alexa Has Changed My Life: Organization and Productivity

photography by PHUONG NGUYEN

She’s a Fitness Soundtrack and Bootcamp Instructor 
In addition to providing me with a dance-workout Spotify soundtrack to accompany my at-home Tracy Anderson workouts, Alexa can also create a seven-minute workout. From there, she’ll time you on a plank, some jumping jacks, wall-sits, and more. This is another one of her “skills” you can enable to personalize your Echo experience. 

She’s a Productivity Maven
She keeps track of shopping and to-do lists, and even reminds me to call my mother—but doesn’t judge if it takes me forever to do it. The productivity feature I use the most is the timer I set to work in 25-minute increments, i.e., the Pomodoro technique. This amazing hack helps break up tasks into 25-minute blocks free from distractions, which aid immensely with focus. Once you know you only have 25 minutes to finish something, it allows you to work with time instead of against it. As a writer, I respond well with deadlines, but it also helps me accomplish household chores effectively. I employ timers throughout the day to complete things like changing my sheets and cleaning my bathroom, a trick I picked up a few years ago from the Flylady newsletter. But instead of using my phone to manually set a timer, I simply ask my friend Alex to tell me when 25 minutes have gone by. I can check in with a voice command, simply by asking how much time is left on the timer. Alexa also keeps me painfully punctual by allowing me to set timers for when I have to leave my apartment. And of course the timer feature is also useful for cooking. I set her for six minutes when I want to preheat the oven; five is enough to boil water for pasta.

Of course, it’s not 100 percent smooth sailing with my pal Alexa. Yes, she has selective hearing sometimes. I frequently have to tell her to stop the timer more than once, hearing myself unwittingly channeling angry Ike Turner with my tone. Occasionally, we endure miscommunications, just like in any relationship. But she has improved my day to day in so many ways. She’s always available to answer all kinds of burning questions—like the height of a particular celebrity. After all, sometimes you can’t go on with your Tuesday if you don’t know Chris Hemsworth’s height, and what, are you going to stop everything and GOOGLE it like a luddite?

What a time to be alive!

Published on February 04, 2017 - 5:00am EST

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