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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.

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        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.

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          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.

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              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?”

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                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 “my_email@example.com”. Use the email “my_email+omnifocus@example.com” 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.

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                  Last Updated on November 19, 2019

                  10 Smartest Productivity Software to Boost Work Performance

                  10 Smartest Productivity Software to Boost Work Performance

                  Productivity is the ability to perform tasks efficiently and in a timely manner. In today’s busy and competitive business world, productivity is paramount for any business, organization or corporation.

                  Productivity is more than just performing tasks successfully. It is about investing and allocating resources, so the company or business can perform to meet its core goals.

                  As part of 2019, it is important to commit to new goals. When shopping around for new productivity software keep in mind the following things: cost, reliability, cross-platform compatibility, on the go, technical support, etc.

                  In the subsequent sections, we will examine the most recommended productivity software in the marketplace. In addition, we will look at what makes them tick and what separates them from the rest of the pack.

                  Projects and Tasks Management

                  1. Monday dot com

                    Monday dot com was founded to create a team management solution so people connect to workplace processes across any industry. The productivity tool is used in more than 140 countries.

                    The user interface is intuitive and impressive. It makes collaboration productive and fun because of its simplicity.

                    The tool is deemed to have one of the best user experiences across the mobile and online project and task management platform.

                    The product includes usability, customization, admin control, group management and control, private or public control, in-group messaging and more.

                    Check out the software here!

                    2. Asana

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                      The mantra behind Asana’s product is to enable teams from across different organizations to work together effortlessly.

                      The software comes with lots of customizations. When you create a project as a user, you can choose between a traditional task view and the kanban-style board view. The dashboard allows you to see the progress on a project, and it includes an excellent advanced set of search tools.

                      Also, Asana’s Android and iOS apps do retain the web interface’s clean look and feel.

                      Check out the software here!

                      3. Trello

                        Trello was founded in the summer of 2010 and two years later the platform added 500,000 members. Anyone within sales, marketing, HR and operations can collaborate successfully with this product.

                        Moreover, the tool has over 100 plus integrations with Google Drive, Slack, Jira and others. The product works flawlessly across various platforms.

                        Some of the well-known features includes is speed, easy-to-use, and set up. The interface includes due dates, assignments, file storage, checklists and more.

                        Check out the software here!

                        4. Jira

                          The Jira software is flexible and heralded as the next-generation project.

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                          The software allows teams to design and adapt the software to an organization’s needs. This includes having visibility into long term goals, project roadmaps, status of work, real-time release information and more. In addition, the interface is customizable.

                          The Atlassian Cloud does not support multiple separate domains, subdomains or domain aliases in Google Apps.

                          Check out the software here!

                          5. Evernote Business

                            Evernote was founded in 2008 and reached 11 million users by 2011. The company was founded on the premise that their product should address the ever-increasing volume and speed of information.

                            The product helps bring together groups of teams because of versatility and functionality. It creates documents, collaboration on projects, store information all a single location.

                            Moreover, you can find information quickly and includes effective search capabilities and integrations with existing tools you may already use.

                            Check out the software here!

                            Communication

                            6. Slack

                              Slack was founded in 2013 and the tool is heralded as a collaboration hub. Slack is where productivity happens. When you start a new project, hire new staff, deploy a code, review a sales contract, finalize on a budget, Slack covers all of these. Some of the major highlights include highly customizable notifications and seamless integrations with other collaboration and office tools. The free version of the software comes loaded with features, but does not archive old message. So, you have to review what are the best options for your organization or business.

                              Check out the software here!

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                              7. Spike

                                Newcomer Spike makes emails more conversational by helping teams maintain productivity, communication, and collaboration. All of these are achieved from within their inbox.

                                Spike works on top of any existing email (O365, G suite, and IMAP) turning it into a real-time messenger and making your communication much more functional and efficient.

                                Spike’s features include built-in groups and channels, voice and video calls, email encryption, instant access to all your files, and much more.

                                Check out the software here!

                                Creation

                                8. Office 365

                                  Microsoft’s Office 365 could not be excluded from the conversation and especially as it pertains to productivity software.

                                  Of course we are all familiar with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. But there is more capabilities that come with it.

                                  You have business-class email, online storage space, and teamwork solutions. These services can be accessed from just about anywhere.

                                  Within this suite is Microsoft Sway, which is a presentation software and a step above PowerPoint.

                                  Check out the software here!

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                                  9. Grammarly

                                    Grammarly helps to cut down time on editing. Professionals in several industries like law, healthcare, academia, marketing, engineering and journalism use it to provide instant feedback on the accuracy of writing in English.

                                    Once you install the extension from Google Chrome, you can get corrections when you are drafting an email, using social media and other apps.

                                    Grammarly is AI powered and it’s a wonderful tool to have to check spelling and grammar before a presentation.

                                    Check out the software here!

                                    Team Analytics

                                    10. ActivTrak

                                      ActivTrak is a business intelligence tool that allows you to access team behavior analytics. In other words, it is data-driven.

                                      The pros include two-factor authentication with active directory integration. You can also automate your alerts and it has an intuitive interface with easy-to-use admin controls.

                                      Furthermore, it comes with Google sign-in, iOS app, productivity track, and more. The bottomline is the product offers employee productivity metrics along with team behavior analytics.

                                      Check out the software here!

                                      The Bottom Line

                                      Depending on the size, budget, resources, and immediate needs of your company, not all productivity software will exactly solve your problem. You will have to contact any of the providers above and probe extensively to find the right product that is made for your business.

                                      More Productivity Tools

                                      Featured photo credit: Domenico Loia via unsplash.com

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