Alexa Routine, the virtual assistant created into Echo devices and other speakers (and a thermostat), is a powerful tool that can support your household run more smoothly, remind you to bring out the trash, and attempt to engage you — among many other things.
All you need to do is create a few Routines, and Amazon’s digital butler will take care of things for you.
Dim the lights, shut the door and play some tunes with a simple voice command. If you’ve got an Echo smart speaker posing on your kitchen counter, and all you’ve utilized so far is to set an egg timer, play music, and may appreciate the “pull my finger” joke, you’re missing out.
An Alexa Routine is a route for all the fortes — or “actions” — Alexa can do. A Routine can serve one or multiple actions, from playing your favorite Spotify playlist at the exact time each day to running a complicated Good Morning Routine that boots off a cacophony of activities.
My Good Morning Routine slowly brightens the lights in my house, unfurls the shades, adjusts the thermostat, notifies the weather, traffic on the school run, and calendar for the day, and turns the kettle on. But, of course, it also initiates the favorite radio station on each speaker in the house.
A Routine can be activated by speaking to your Echo smart speaker, or it can run at a set time of day or even when your dog barks.
A Routine can be triggered to run in many ways: say “Alexa, Good Morning” to your Echo Show to start a Good Morning Routine or have it arranged to go off every morning at 8 AM or when you overlook your alarm on your Echo Dot with the clock.
First, here’s the essential step-by-step guide to how to set up an Alexa Routine, and then we’ll go into more attributes about the various triggers and actions you can use in your Routine.
Set Up an Alexa Routine:
- Open the Alexa app on the mobile or tablet.
- Select More from the bottom navigation panel.
- Tap Routines from the menu.
- Click the Plus icon on the top-right edge.
- Enter a name for the Routine and tap Next.
- Choose what will be used to trigger the Routine (see below for some options), and tap Next.
- Choose the actions you want Alexa to take (see below for more on these), and tap Next.
- Choose which Echo device the Routine will play from (if it has a sound component such as music or an announcement or if it will be triggered by voice).
- Tap Save, and your Routine will appear in the list of Routines.
You can go into the Routine from this list to change it, disable it, or start it manually by tapping the Play button next to it.
Pro tip: if you want to create multiple Routines that do the same thing only with a different trigger or from another device, select the Routine from the main Routines page, tap the three-dot menu switch in the top right-hand nook of the Edit Routine page, and choose Copy Actions to New Routine.
Start an Alexa Routine
To start a Routine, you need a trigger that tells Alexa that when this happens, you want the Routine to run. There are multiple ways to activate a Routine; some are hands-free — such as time and location. Others involve an interaction, such as a voice command or your dog barking. Here’s a look at some of the most common triggers:
- Voice: Ask Alexa to start the Routine. Create a Snack Time Routine that pauses your Fire TV and turns on the lights in the kitchen when you say “Alexa, Snack Time.” Or a bedtime Routine that turns out the lights locks the door, adjusts the thermostat, and starts playing sleep sounds when you say, “Alexa, it’s Bedtime.”
- Time of day (schedule): Routines can trigger at a set time. Have the lights turn off automatically at sunrise and an hour after sunset. A dinnertime Routine that shuts off the Wi-Fi at 6:30 PM is an effective way to get everyone to the dinner table.
- Smart Home: Smart home devices, including sensors, cameras, and the status of a device (locked or unlocked, for example), can trigger Routines. For instance, if a motion sensor detects movement in the hallway between 11 PM and 6 AM, have the lights turn on low; if the door is left unlocked after 10 PM, lock it.
- Location: Using the Alexa app on your smartphone, Alexa can know when you arrive or leave your house. It is suitable for a Welcome Home, or I’m Leaving Routine that adjusts your smart thermostat, turns on your lights, and starts playing music when you come home, then does the reverse when you leave. You can also have your robot vacuum start cleaning and stop when you return.
- Alarm: A Good Morning Routine can play when you stop the alarm.
- Sound: The sound of water running, a person coughing or snoring, a dog barking, a baby crying, and a beeping appliance are all sound triggers for Routines. Have a Good Morning Routine start when you turn the shower on in the bathroom or set a Routine that sends an app notification if Alexa hears your dog barking and starts playing soothing music.
You can add almost 30 different categories of actions to a Routine, totaling hundreds, if not thousands, of activities you can trigger. You can also add multiple activities to a Routine. These include:
- Smart home: Activate intelligent home devices such as lights, robot vacuums, smart fans or shades, and a door lock.
- Alexa Says: Have Alexa say anything you want.
- Audible: Have Alexa read an Audible book.
- Calendar: Announce your next event or calendar for the day or tomorrow.
- Television: Control a Fire TV.
- Music or podcasts: Start playing a playlist, song, or podcast.
- Skill: Activate any linked Alexa skill.
Once you’ve selected your actions, you can arrange them in the order you want them to run by holding and dragging them on the Edit Routine page. You can also add a Wait command of up to four hours between actions.
Alexa Routines have a lot of potential and options for customizations. Alexa can probably do it for you if you can think of it. But if you don’t know where to start, Amazon supplies a few premade Routines (or featured Routines) in the Alexa app to get you going. Looking through these can also inspire you to set up your Routines. And once you start, it’s hard to stop! I have over 45 Routines set up to run in my home.