Tips & Tricks

Alexa Routines: what are they and how do we use them?

Mark Ammendolia
February 11, 2020

Amazon Alexa Routines: Creating Powerful Automation for your Device (2019)

Having been around for quite some time now, Amazon's Alexa functionality continues to break boundaries.

What can Alexa do? There are many popular ways to use Alexa: to control your smart home devices, add to your shopping list, schedule calendar events and stream your favorite music -  tasks that make up only a tiny fraction of Alexa's ever-expanding skillset.

We've certainly come a long way from the curious hockey puck speaker that could only perform a handful of mundane tasks. How things have changed.

With a rapidly growing list of new features and skills - coupled with a burgeoning army of Alexa and Alexa-enabled devices - new possibilities and use-cases are continuing to poke through the surface.

Enter Alexa Routines.

What are Alexa Routines?

Alexa routines allow you to bundle together and automate several tasks using a single trigger or voice command.

In other words, you can create a list of actions that will play in succession after initiating one of five triggers: voice, schedule, device, location, alarm and the echo button.

Let's explain what each trigger does:

VOICE: Summoning Alexa using a specific trigger phrase.

Example: "Alexa, good morning."

SCHEDULE: Assigning a specific time to your routine.

Example: When you go to bed every night at 9 pm.

DEVICE: Setting a smart device-based trigger.

Example: When you activate a smart home device such as a motion sensor or lock.

LOCATION: Setting a location-based trigger using GPS

Example: Every time you walk into the office.

ALARM: Setting an alarm-based trigger.

Example: When your morning alarm goes off on your phone.

ECHO BUTTON: Setting a button-based trigger.

Example: Pressing an assigned button on your Echo device.

When to use Alexa Routines

When thinking about Alexa routines, it's important to understand the scenarios in which they are most effective.

Routines can be especially powerful in automating a series of tasks that you do every day. When you wake up, for example, you might ask your Alexa device to turn on the lights, read out your calendar, and then play that one song you love getting dressed to.

By creating an Alexa morning routine, your Alexa device can rattle-off a series of events - like the one mentioned above - to get you ready for your day.

Remember those five triggers we mentioned earlier? We can set the phrase, "Alexa, good morning" as our chosen voice trigger to activate this routine. It's that simple.

Now you can sit back, relax and let Alexa take control.

HOT TIP: How to set up a routine on Alexa

Installing an Alexa skill is just as easy as setting up a routine. Below, I'll show you how to create a custom routine on your Alexa app in a few simple steps:

  1. Open the Alexa app on your mobile device
  2. In the bottom right corner, select [More]
  3. Select [Routines]
  4. Select the [+] icon in the top right corner to add a new routine
  5. Select [When This Happens] to add a trigger for your routine
  6. Next, select [Add action] to add a skill, task or command to your routine.
  7. Once you've added a few actions, you can organize them, by holding and dragging the [=] icon
  8. You can also select [The device you speak to] if you would like Alexa to respond from a  device of your choosing.
  9. When you're happy with your routine, select [Save] in the top right corner. It might take a minute or so for Alexa to upload your routine.

If you're having trouble coming up with your own custom routine - not to worry. Check out Amazon's pre-build featured routines. You can access them after selecting [Routines] from the top left menu.

The 4 Best Alexa Routines and When to Use Them

Outside of popular routines such as Alexa goodnight and good morning, there are many scenarios where routines can come in handy - especially when it comes to productivity, communication and security. Here are some of the best Amazon Alexa routines examples you need to try.

*Note: Alexa and Alexa-enabled devices such as Fire TV, and smart accessories such as plugs, light bulbs, doorbells, and motion-sensors - are required for many of these routines.

1. Movie night

  • Looking to set the mood while streaming your favorite movies and TV shows? You can utilize this Alexa routine idea by creating a voice command trigger like, "Alexa, movie time". You can then set up your routine to dim the lights, turn on your smart TV, start Netflix, and raise the volume on your speakers. With an AmazonBasics Microwave, you can even get your popcorn ready before the show starts.

2. Anyone home?

  • When you're leaving for work or a night out on the town, keeping your home safe and secure is essential in giving you peace of mind while you're away. When creating this routine, use a location trigger. Your Alexa device will then monitor your phone's geo-location so that it knows exactly when you're leaving. Turning off smart lights, lowering your thermostat and ensuring your front door is locked are all actions you can enable through your Alexa routine. If there is movement around your home, you can also set up smart motion sensors to send alerts right to your mobile phone. A word of advice: try keeping one smart light on - especially near a window - to make it look like someone's home. This can give you peace of mind when you're on vacation.

3. Getting your kids out of bed

  • It's hard enough getting yourself out of bed. But what about your kids? You can create a custom Alexa routine to offer a helping hand each morning. Start the routine by using the announcements option - a feature that allows you to send a personalized message such as "it's time to get up for school" on all your Echo devices. Reading out the weather can ensure your kids have dressed appropriately while playing a song or two can keep them from falling back asleep. Five minutes before leaving, you can initiate another announcement to remind everyone it's time to go.

4. Knock knock. Who's there?

  • Sometimes, it can be tough hearing the doorbell. Maybe you're listening to loud music or hanging out in the basement. By connecting your Ring doorbell to your Echo device, you can set up a device trigger for this routine on your Alexa app. When someone rings the doorbell, you can have your Alexa device send out an announcement that someone is at the front door. Next, have it turn on your hallway light so they know you're coming. You can also send a custom notification to your Alexa app every time someone rings your doorbell. This will keep you informed on what's happening around your home while you're away.

Now that you know how to use Alexa routines, it's time to give it a try! Learn how to create an Alexa skill and incorporate it into your own Alexa good morning or good night routines. Stay up to date with our newest product updates and insights by subscribing to our blog below.