Advertising
Advertising

Being Productive With Siri, Your New Personal Assistant

Being Productive With Siri, Your New Personal Assistant

    The other day we detailed some of our favorite iOS 5 tips and tricks. Today we are going to look at the awesome things that you can do with Siri on the iPhone 4S (or if you are a hacker type, on the iPhone 4, too).

    Siri is very much a beta product, but can give the user some handy ways to do things quickly while not interrupting their workflow. First we will outline some of the quick things that you can do with Siri to get things done.

    Sending messages and emails

      It’s super easy to send messages and emails with Siri. First, activate Siri and say “Send email to” or “Send message to Rutherford, I will be late for the party”. Siri will understand this natural type of language and will respond with something like,

      “Here is your messages to Rutherford. It says, “I will be late for the party”. Ready to send it?”

      From here you can do a number of things. You can respond by saying “modify it” or “change it” to wipe out the message portion and start over. You can say “no” or “cancel” to cancel the message entirely. Or you can simply reply “yes”, “send it”, or “confirm” to send the message.

        One of my favorite ways to send text messages with Siri is to say, “tell Amy that I will be home in about 15 minutes”. The fact that I can say “tell Amy” is so natural that it reduces the friction between me and my productivity tool allowing me to simply use it.

        Advertising

        Calling businesses and other things

        To call a business or place that isn’t in your address book simply say, “Call Big Daddy’s Steak House.” Siri will respond, “I don’t see Big Daddy’s steak house in your address book. Should I look for businesses by that name?”

        Respond “yes” or “no”. If Siri finds it she will ask you if she should call the business. Simply respond “yes” or “no”.

        You can also find businesses and places in different towns or cities (only in the US for now) by saying, “Call ‘some business name’ in Houston, Texas.”

        Calling a number is as simple as dialing it out loud. “Call 8675309.”

        Taking notes on the go

          I don’t use the stock Notes app on the iPhone much (read: not at all) as I am a plain text kind of guy, but with the addition of Siri to the iPhone 4S, the notes app may deserve another look.

          To make a note with Siri simply say, “Note, this is a really important note!” A note will be created with that said text. To create a note with a “title” say, “Create a ‘inbox items’ note”. Siri will know that this is the “inbox items” note and then you can use that name to add to it with “Add, think about what to buy mom for her birthday to my ‘inbox items’ note”.

          Siri will “tend to” add this to your note that has already been started. I’ve had trouble with this one but when it does work (I’d say 8 times out of 10) it is extremely useful.

          Setting appointments, timers, alarms and reminders

          If you have noticed yet, I love just how conversational Siri can be. With that, setting appointments, timers, alarms, and reminders is one of the easiest things you can do with Siri. In fact, you may not even need to know the exact “syntax” to these things as just saying something like, “set a timer for 4 minutes” will produce a running timer.

          Advertising

          Calendar appointments

          Say, “Set up an appointment (or meeting) at 6pm next Monday with my wife.” You can even say something like, “set up a meeting with Mike Vardy every Friday at 3:00am”. This will make a recurring appointment in your calendar as well as invite Mike Vardy (as long as he is in your address book) to the meeting when you confirm it.

          Timers and alarms

          I use these all the time at work because they are so easy to do. Say, “setup a timer for 25 minutes”. Done.

          For alarms say, “set an alarm for tomorrow at 4:45AM”. You can even say something like “set an alarm for every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6AM”.

          Reminders

            We covered reminders in the last iOS 5 guide, and even though that Apple’s implementation of tasks is pretty great for a first stab, Reminders won’t be replacing my GTD system of choice any time soon. But, reminders gets much, much more useful now that I can create them with Siri.

            Setting up reminders for when I leave my house or when I arrive at work feels like I’m living in the 2000’s finally.

            To setup a reminder say something like, “set a reminder for when I leave home to remember to grag the TPS reports.” Or “set a reminder for 6PM tonight to stop and get my wife roses.”

            The “Hacks”

            OK, so all of the cool things you can do with Siri are awesome. But what about some things that aren’t supported out of the box? Take a look below for some of our favorites.

            Add a task to your favorite todo list app, notes app, etc.

              Adding tasks to services like Toodledo, RTM, or even OmniFocus requires a little setup, but is pretty easy to do. In fact, on the RTM blog they just posted a way to add tasks to the native Reminders app and have it sync with RTM. We are going to show you a more generic way to do this though that you can do with any service that allows email or text input.

              Advertising

              There are a bunch of web services that allow you to add items over email or even text message. Some of the ones that come to mind are Twitter, Toodledo, Evernote, OmniFocus, Remember the Milk, Springpad, etc.

              Let’s take Evernote for example:

              To send a note to Evernote from Siri setup a contact in your iPhone’s address book called Evernote. An even better thing to do is to setup two contacts. One with the First Name ‘Evernote’ and another with the first name ‘Ever’ and the last name ‘Note’. This will ensure that Siri won’t screw up recognizing when you say “Evernote”. Next, put your “send to Evernote” email into your Evernote’s contact info.

              After this activate Siri and say “Tell Evernote that I have to rethink the way that we are going to launch the site”. Siri will read it back to you and then you can confirm the send.

              This proves to be one of the most powerful things that I can get my iPhone 4S to do.

              Setting up Twitter

                It seems like a total misstep that Apple didn’t add Twitter support out of box. What’s even weirder is that Siri knows what Twitter is but just won’t help you out in Tweeting.

                Bad Siri.

                But there is a way to get around this. Make a contact called “Twitter” in your address book with the standard SMS number of ‘40404’. Also, you have to setup Tweeting by SMS on Twitter.com or over your phone by sending your password. After the initial setup, say, “tell Twitter that sending messages from Siri is awesome”. Siri should reply with her familiar “Here’s your message to Twitter. Ready to send it?”

                Advertising

                Set up adding to OmniFocus inbox with Siri

                  For you OmniFocus nerds out there, here is how you can send to your inbox with Siri (that is until the geniuses at The OmniGroup bring us something better). You need OmniFocus for your Mac with the Mail.app rules setup. Refer to this OmniGroup forum posting to set that up.

                  Next, set up an OmniFocus contact like I outlined above for Evernote. For your email address, use one that is set up in your Mail.app but instead of the regular email address, add ‘+omnifocus’ before the ‘@’ symbol. For example:

                  Your email is “[email protected]”. Use the email “[email protected]” for your OmniFocus contact info.

                  Now use Siri by saying “tell OminFocus that I need to grab some coffee when I go to the store”. The next time you sync with your OF database you should see your new inbox item.

                  Siri on productivity

                  Since we have only had a limited time with Siri, there will of course be more and more neat tricks uncovered as time goes on. But, I can already tell just how important this way of interacting with your iPhone will change productivity in the coming years.

                  I had a huge realization the other day when I had my earbuds in listening to music and programming. Something came to mind that was totally unrelated. I always have paper next to me to jot quick notes and reminders down and then come back to them to process. Instead, I long held my headset button and said, “tell OmniFocus ‘such and such that I needed to remember’”. Then I went back to listening to music and working. Later, when I was processing my inbox I realized that I captured something into my system with the least amount of resistance that I have ever experienced.

                  Now, I’m not saying that Siri is perfect. Not by any means. I’m also not saying that Apple has invented voice recognition and we should blindly follow and worship them. What I am saying is that Apple has provided consumers with the first accessible voice recognition and, dare I say, artificial intelligence that normal people can use. There can be a bit of a learning curve to get Siri to do exactly what you want it to do, but for the most part it is intuitive and extremely useful.

                  Good productivity tools are the ones that are useful and can stay out of your way. Siri accomplishes this task and I can’t wait to use it more and more in my everyday workflows.

                  More by this author

                  CM Smith

                  A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

                  Design Is Important: How To Fail At Blogging 7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively 6 Unexpected Ways Journaling Every Day Will Make Your Life Better Why Getting Things Done is the Best Productivity System For You How to Beat Procrastination: 29 Ways to Beat It Once and for All To Automate or not to Automate Your Personal Productivity System

                  Trending in Technology

                  1 40 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone (2019 Updated) 2 8 Replacements for Google Notebook 3 7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively 4 7 Clever Goal Tracker Apps to Make the Most of Your Business in 2019 5 10 Smartest Productivity Software to Improve Your Work Performance

                  Read Next

                  Advertising
                  Advertising
                  Advertising

                  Last Updated on June 17, 2019

                  40 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone (2019 Updated)

                  40 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone (2019 Updated)

                  Over the years here at Lifehack, we’ve discussed plenty of apps that you can use to improve your overall productivity.

                  There are certain ones that many of our contributors and editors (past and present) have adopted over the long-term — there are always the stalwarts that stick around. But there are also new apps that crop up every day, adding more and more depth to the app category.

                  Some of the apps are incredibly plain and simple, while others are more robust and offer more features than you can shake a stick at. And everyone has the one they prefer.

                  It’s been our job (and still is our job) to keep abreast of all of the productivity-type apps out there. As a result — and as a bit of a refresher — we’ve put together a list of 40 best productivity apps for iPhone (all categorized based on their functions) to provide you with an all-in-one resource for you.

                  For Getting Things Done

                  1. OmniFocus

                  This app is, while pricey, considered to be one of the (if not the) most robust and full-featured productivity apps on the market.

                  Download it here.

                    2. Forest

                    Train yourself to put your phone down and stay focused on the task at hand by playing with this planting game. It’s fun and will help you achieve more.

                    Download it here.

                      3. Things

                      Another robust choice, this app is a favorite amongst “productivityists”.[1]

                      Download it here.

                        4. 30/30

                        Recently covered here at Lifehack

                        , 30/30 is a newcomer to the game that incorporates lists and timing of tasks into an elegant and easy-to-use interface.

                        Download it here.

                          5. Any.Do

                          A beautiful-looking app that is both easy on the eyes and your wallet.

                          Download it here.

                            6. PocketLife Calendar

                            This calendar app is specifically designed to be stylish and super easy-to-use. You can organize your life easily with different modern features.

                            Download it here.

                              7. Asana

                              We’ve covered Asana here at Lifehack

                              , and it is being actively developed by a strong team committed to making collaborative task management a more efficient and effective experience.

                              Download it here.

                              Advertising

                                8. ToDoist

                                This app keeps track of everything – from simple errands to your most important projects – so you can get it all done and enjoy more peace of mind along the way.

                                Download it here.

                                  9. FlowTasks

                                  From the folks at MetaLab, Flow is a gorgeous collaborative task management app that is easy-to-use and incredibly functional.

                                  Download it here.

                                    10. Calendars 5

                                    This calendar app focuses on events that help you to keep track of upcoming events and tasks easily. It has everything you need to organize, track and complete your to-dos.

                                    Download it here.

                                      11. Clear – Tasks, Reminders & To-Do Lists

                                      A fun and innovative list-making app that relies on swiping and pinching to make things happen. Clear created a lot of buzz when it launched, and might be the perfect to-do list gateway app for many.

                                      Download it here.

                                        12. Due

                                        A robust reminders app that lets you store and maintain reminders of all types. It’s replaced Reminders for me when it comes to the basics, and it’s worth a look if you want to keep the mundane stuff out of your head and cluttering your mind.

                                        Download it here.

                                          13. Checkmark 2

                                          I use this app

                                          for location-based reminders (such as groceries I need to get or single items I need to pick up from various locations). Checkmark is simple to use and a valuable addition to my productivity arsenal.

                                          Download it here.

                                            14. TeuxDeux

                                            Created by Tina Roth Eisenberg and Fictive Kin — Teux Deux is simple and incredibly stellar in terms of design. If you like lists (including the popular “Someday Bucket”) and want to associate dates with tasks, then Teux Deux will be right up your alley.

                                            Download it here.

                                              15. Wunderlist 

                                              Another incredibly popular choice is Wunderlist. Part of 6Wunderkinder’s software family, it sports a gorgeous design and is incredibly functional. We’ve talked about the app a couple of times here at Lifehack, so check those posts out here.

                                              Download it here.

                                              Advertising

                                                16. Nirvana

                                                For the GTD enthusiasts, there’s Nirvana. Straight from the source: “Nirvana frees your mind to focus on actually getting things done. If you’ve had enough of generic to-do lists, it’s time for Nirvana.”

                                                Download it here.

                                                  17. Priorities

                                                  An elegant-looking task management app that has received decent reviews,[2] this could be the one for you if you’re not a fan of OmniFocus or Things — especially if you need (or want) to share tasks with others.

                                                  Download it here.

                                                    For Building Habits

                                                    18. Productive

                                                    With this app, you can plan your habits with an easy-to-use interface, schedule habits for any time of the day, set smart reminders for each time of the day and stay on track with useful feedback. This app is perfect for anyone who wants to build a habit that sticks.

                                                    Download it here.

                                                      19. Habitica: Gamified Taskmanager

                                                      You can complete tasks and build habits in a more fun way with this app. Input your Habits, your Daily goals, and your To-Do list, and then create a custom avatar. Check off tasks to level up your avatar and unlock features such as armor, pets, skills, and even quests.

                                                      Download it here.

                                                        20. Streaks

                                                        This app follows the model of the popular “don’t break the chain method” in that you use the app to track how you are donig in the pursuit of your goal. Great for goal-setting — and an easy and elegant interface to boot.

                                                        Download it here.

                                                          21. Remember The Milk

                                                          Another popular to-do list app, Remember The Milk has a huge following. It has plenty to offer, including the ability to share tasks with others.

                                                          Download it here.

                                                            22. Day One Journal

                                                            When it comes to journaling, nothing really beats Day One. Its latest update added a slew of features that will make you want to start making journaling a habit.

                                                            Download it here.

                                                              For Files Organization

                                                              23. Evernote

                                                              Touted as the world’s most widely-used productivity app, Evernote an be used simply as a notetaking app or can be customized to be your GTD app of choice — among other things.

                                                              Download it here.

                                                                24. Pocket

                                                                You can save an article, video or link you want to read or watch later to Pocket from anywhere including your computer, Safari, email, and your favorite apps like Facebook, Twitter, Flipboard, and Feedly.

                                                                Download it here.

                                                                Advertising

                                                                  25. Sync.Me

                                                                  This app identifies unknown phone calls, warns you from annoying spam calls, and adds a caller picture to your contacts from Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

                                                                  Download it here.

                                                                    26. Droplr

                                                                    One of the most popular file-sharing apps out there today. Straight from the source: “Stay productive on the go. Droplr for iPhone keeps you in sync and makes sharing on the iPhone natural.”

                                                                    Download it here.

                                                                      27. Dropbox

                                                                      Before iCloud, there was Dropbox. And there still is Dropbox, which is still widely used by both Mac and PC users all over the globe. It’s like having a flash drive in your iPhone. A must-have.

                                                                      Download it here.

                                                                        28. iDolly 

                                                                        In conjunction with Dolly Drive and DollySync, iDolly allows you to edit and share your documents from your iPhone.

                                                                        Since all your changes sync automatically to all your devices, the current version of a document will always be accessible because Dolly Sync keeps everything in sync. Very handy.

                                                                        Download it here.

                                                                          29. Soulver

                                                                          It may seem odd that a calculator app shows up on this list, but this is no ordinary calendar app. Ben Brooks over at The Brooks review describes Soulver as follows: “It is what calculators would have been if they were invented at the same time computers were, instead of what we have with most calculator apps.” [3]

                                                                          Download it here.

                                                                            For Working Smarter

                                                                            30. Captio

                                                                            A simple capture tool. Straight from the developers: “It’s simple. Open Captio and start typing. When you’re done, hit Send. The note is immediately delivered to your email inbox.”

                                                                            Download it here.

                                                                              31. Drafts

                                                                              A tremendous capture tool that allows for simple capture, followed by sending items to various applications such as OmniFocus, Things and more.

                                                                              Download it here.

                                                                                32. NoteShelf 2

                                                                                This is a perfect note-taking app for you. You can take beautiful handwritten notes, type, annotate PDFs, record audio & create lists. You can organize them into categories or groups.

                                                                                Download it here.

                                                                                Advertising

                                                                                  33. Doodle

                                                                                  This app links directly with the Doodle service, which is one that allows you to plan and organize meetings far more efficiently and effectively. Lifehack contributor Steve Dotto has written about Doodle more in-depth here.

                                                                                  Download it here.

                                                                                    34. TextExpander (Legacy)

                                                                                    I have saved countless hours of time with TextExpander, and despite its inability to be as robust on iOS as it is on the Mac, it is still a worthy app to have in your arsenal.

                                                                                    Download it here.

                                                                                      35. Launch Center Pro

                                                                                      A quick launcher for the iPhone that doesn’t just launch an app…with some of them it can do much more. This app saves you time by launching complex actions in a single tap.

                                                                                      Download it here.

                                                                                        36. GoodReader

                                                                                        This may seem to be an odd one to make this list, but here are plenty of reasons why it is here with this article.

                                                                                        Download it here.

                                                                                          37. LogMeIn

                                                                                          Want to be able to control your Mac from wherever you are? Then get this app.

                                                                                          Download it here.

                                                                                            For Improving Security

                                                                                            38. 1Password

                                                                                            There is simply no better password manager out there. I’ve even put together a 1Password Emergency Kit worth looking at here.

                                                                                            Download it here.

                                                                                              39. LastPass Password Manager

                                                                                              You can store passwords and logins, create online shopping profiles, generate strong passwords, track personal information in photo and audio notes.

                                                                                              All you have to do is remember your LastPass master password, and LastPass autofills web browser and app logins for you.

                                                                                              Download it here.

                                                                                                40. Truecallers

                                                                                                Identify and block spammers, search for unknown numbers and call friends easily with this app. With a community-based spam list from over 250 million users, you’ll need this app.

                                                                                                Download it here.

                                                                                                  There are plenty of other options out there (and we’ve heard from readers in the past as to what they enjoyed using), but these 40 are among the best.

                                                                                                  More Great Apps Recommendations

                                                                                                  Reference

                                                                                                  Read Next