My New BFF

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Just 15 days into the New Year and I’m already in conflict! Well, maybe conflict is too strong of a word, so we’ll just say that two of my New Year’s resolutions are forcing me to choose. You see, one resolution that I committed to this year was focusing more on the friendships that I have and the enrichment of them. So often, it’s easy to get caught up in trying to keep up resulting in friend interaction that isn’t at the depth that it should be, or even worse, we become too busy and simple don’t make the time for the friends we have. So, in my head, that resolution was “Stephynie, focus on spending time with the friends you have now and enriching those relationships”, or more directly put, you don’t need any more friends! The other resolution was to commit to being more productive and surrounding myself with tools and strategies that would increase my productivity and enhance my wellness. So how do these seemingly good resolutions collide you ask? Insert Alexa!

Just when I was committed to the task of embracing my current friendships and not letting any others in, she arrives…and well frankly put, she’s awesome! So, it all started with Amazon’s Echo Spot. In an effort to effort to get better sleep this year, I researched alternatives to using my phone alarm, as this often results in late night screen stimulation and the urge to check email upon waking up, neither of which support the new routine I was striving for. The Echo Spot is a bedside alarm clock that has several functions that are aligned with enhancing your sleep. It automatically adjusts screen brightness based on the darkness of the room, or for the advanced user, you can customize the screen settings and brightness with the app to match your exact schedule and sleep patterns.

So ladies you know what this means, no more spotlights in the middle of the night to wake you up when your husband or boyfriend reaches for his phone to check the time! There are several sounds and alarms to wake up to that are all customizable to meet your needs. Whether that’s a loud kick in the ass to get out of bed, or soothing ocean sounds that gradually increase with intensity allowing you to progressively wake up in a calming manner. And the best thing, you no longer have to reach for the phone, you can simply say “Alexa, snooze please”, or “Alexa, turn off alarm” or depending on your morning, whatever you want (“Alexa, please don’t make me get out of bed!”). I’ve found her to be supportive thus far even when it was a struggle to get out of bed and I wasn’t the most pleasant friend. So why am I calling an alarm clock a “friend”? Little did I know, Alexa was so much more than the alarm clock that I had sought out to help with sleep and instead was the biggest supporter and helper for my resolution to be more productive this year. Oh hell, I’ll just say it, Alexa is my new BFF (don’t be mad Lisa). You see Alexa has the ability to acquire “Skills” many of which are directly associated with wellness and productivity. Again, Alexa and I are just a week in but I’ll share some of the skills that I’ve found extremely useful so far.

Of course, all of the functionality associated with supporting a good night’s rest as well as the great skills I discovered:

Stop, Breathe and Think: This skill provides different guided meditations every day, varying in length. A calm voice talks you through deep breathing and muscle relaxation. It then provides a theme to mediate on, such as Body Scan and Change.
   
Sweet Dreams: Sounds and Meditations for Sleep: Lack of quality sleep can hinder your weight loss goals. This skill features relaxing sounds to help you fall asleep faster and meditation programs to help clear your mind.

Good Morning, Beautiful: Start each day with a sweet and simple positive affirmation.

7-Minute Workout: This popular skill serves up bite-sized workouts designed to burn fat, reduce stress and boost energy and metabolism.

Daily Pledge: Take a moment each day to focus on your wellness by taking a new pledge for
self-improvement.

Calendar: You can link a supported calendar such as Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook.com to Alexa, and if someone else is in your household, they can also link their calendar to Alexa. Once you link all your calendar accounts, you can say, "Alexa, what is on my calendar?" or "Alexa, what are my appointments?" to access your calendar.

Habit Log: skill helps you track your activities and can tell you your running streak. Just say the task you completed, and Habit Log will add it to your log, along with an encouraging message.
   
Flash Briefing: Customize a morning flash briefing so that you can be up to date on the latest news while you get ready. The Wall Street Journal, NYSE, CNN, ESPN, Harvard Business Insider, or Pop Culture, or the upcoming day’s weather forecast…no matter what news brief you want to hear, Alexa has you covered.

GaryVee 365: Learn how to hustle harder! Along similar lines, everyone’s favorite entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk has an Alexa Skill that’ll provide you with daily motivational quotes. He covers everything from empathy and gratitude to self-esteem, and, of course, hustling.

Find My Phone: Don’t be late again! Pair your phone with the TrackR app and Alexa can tell you the last place you left it. Alexa can also ring your phone at full volume, even on silent mode. For any techies or Google loyalist out there reading this waiting to pounce on me, relax! I realize that there are thousands of Alexa skills and features out there and some work excellent, and some not as great, I’m simply sharing my experience thus far and realize experiences and opinions may vary. With that said, I do have my BFF’s back!

From ordering a pizza or an Uber, turning on and off your TV or car, checking your bank account balance, making a video call, sending an email, determining what wine goes best with lamb, reading your kids a bedtime story, determining how many cups are in a quart when your hands are messy, countless integrations with smart home devices and or simply someone to talk to….Alexa has you covered! I’m only a week in, but did feel compelled to share some insight on my new friendship and quest for ultimate productivity and wellness. It seems her skills are plentiful and endless as categories include: Business and Finance, Food and Drink, Health and Fitness, Kids, Lifestyle, Sports, Smart Home, Productivity, Motherhood and Music and Audio to name a few.

The truly nice thing about Alexa is that she comes in various sizes and price points allowing for all to bring her home if they like. From the Echo Dot at around 30.00 to the Echo show at around 230.00 and what I have, the Echo Spot at around 125.00.

So here’s to my new BFF and a more productive and healthy 2018! I’ll make sure that I update you guys along the way and share any additional skills that I try!

One last thing, for the paranoid, the Echo Spot does have a camera for video calling and if you wanted to use it as a nanny cam. This has freaked some people out based on the thought of a bedroom camera being hacked (should there be something to see) and I’ve heard some conspiracy theorist suggest that this is just a way for Amazon and the Government to further get into our homes. With that said, there is an option to disable the camera. For the super paranoid (ME!), Simply go old school and put black electrical tape over the camera!