I ordered an Echo Dot in January of this year. The idea of verbal commands for Amazon music and audiobooks drew me in, but the quick and easy way to record lists and set reminders is what keeps me going.
By day, I’m a ‘stay-at-home mom’ of two young children. I keep tiny humans alive, make food, give hugs, referee, make food, chauffeur, wipe tears, and make food. During the school year, we homeschool a few days a week. By night, I write and work from home as the Director of Operations for a non-profit.
I knew having an assistant would spoil me. I had no idea I would use her for so much. Here are the five reasons why Alexa may be a mom’s best friend:
1. She keeps my hands free.
Let’s say I’m making two sandwiches, one with tomato and lettuce, sliced in triangles and the other rectangular sliced, no cheese and I suddenly realize that we’re low on mayonnaise. “Alexa, add mayo to my shopping list.” If I want to be precise (and I usually do) I’ll say, “Alexa, add mayo to my VONS/Trader Joe’s/Sprouts/Target list.” Yes, I have a list for every store I shop at. It’s how I roll.
Should I dare sit down with a bowl of ice cream or a glass of wine in the evening and that nagging forgetful feeling creeps in, I take another bite or sip before I ask, “Alexa, what’s on my to-do list?”
The time I wasted searching for a scrap of paper, a sharpened pencil, or a pen that works are gone! The chance of a thought slipping my mind while my hands are occupied? Slim.
2. She holds my brain for me.
She helps me close all the tabs I have open in my mind by storing my lists.
Grocery. This one gets used the most because my marathoner husband runs 30+ miles a week and our two young sons are “still hungry” all day. Anytime we run out of fruit, cheese, wine, or toilet paper? “Alexa, add ______ to the Costco list.”
Prayer. If we receive a text from a friend or family member, if I see an urgent or ongoing prayer request on social media? “Alexa, add ______ to the prayer list.” It’s a good place to consolidate prayer needs and when I need reminders I ask, “Alexa, who’s on my prayer list?” As prayers are answered and marked as such, I love that I can refer to the Alexa app history to see how God is moving in the lives of our family and friends.
Tasks Lists. Schedule donation pick-ups, medical appointments, birthday party planning, back-to-school prep, volunteer plans.
Restaurants. When I hear about a good restaurant, or someone shares an amazing food photo on Instagram, I add it to my restaurant list so I’ll have a list of places at the ready for whenever we can’t decide where to go.
Self-care. Prayer, meditation, breathing, stretching, relaxing, and breaks.
The list goes on. As useful and functional as it is, the Echo Dot still has a ways to go in making changes to unique verbalized commands. For example, if you said “order a paper weight” and she hears “order paper plates,” then she’ll refer you to the Alexa app to make the correction.
3. She makes the mundane a memory.
At 4:45 every afternoon: “I’m reminding you, Jimmy*. It’s time to practice piano*.” My eldest son’s name isn’t Jimmy, but you get the point. We don’t have to nag and a music practice reminder is one less thing I have to remember.
At 6:00 each night: “I’m reminding you. It’s Johnny’s story time.” Sometimes our evenings get hectic and my husband and I don’t get around to reading to our youngest—he has an older brother for that, right? Second child problems.
Occasional reminders such as schedule a babysitter, a carpool, plan the team snack, jot down a creative idea—these are the things that pop into my head when I’m playing LEGO, folding paper airplanes, or looking for pill bugs on the side walk.
Weekly reminders: “Alexa, remind me to put the trash cans out at 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday.”
4. She keeps up with me.
I’m one of those moms who doesn’t really stay at home. With the Echo Dot, anything I add to my lists, reminders, or alarms are immediately updated on the app and I can view them all from my mobile device. I can update my to-do list while I’m waiting in line at Costco. Plus, I have the option to create and edit lists via the app or use voice commands when I’m away from home.
My completed tasks don’t disappear unless I want them to, so if the house looks like I did a whole lot of nothing by the end of the day, then I only need to look at my lists if I feel I need proof. I may have an idea for a new skill: “Alexa, tell me what I did today?”
5. She understands my 5-year-old.
My children like to listen to music and the weather before getting dressed. Even when he calls her, “Awexah.” My soon-to-be-kindergartener can’t say the L sound yet but she still understands him. Now that’s just cool.
Reality Changing Observations
Q1: Which habits and routines do you have (or would like to have) that could be streamlined by technology?
Q2: What concerns do you have about how your personal data is being stored or used?
Q3: What surprising uses have you found for personal assistant technology?