How to Use Alexa Routines

Life gets even easier when Alexa does it all

A picture of a woman using a smart phone and smiling.
Automate repetitive tasks with routines.

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Amazon’s Alexa can perform more than one task at a time. To get Alexa to do this, you create a routine. Alexa routines make performing multiple, repetitive tasks easier, because with a routine, you only need to give Alexa one command in order to have it perform the groups of commands you’ve associated with it. Routines can be configured to automatically run at a specific time too; with this kind of routine you don't even need to say a command.

Note: To create Echo routines, you need one of Amazon’s Echo devices such as the newest Echo, the previous-generation Echo, or the Echo Dot, Show, Plus, or Spot. If you have smart devices, that’s even better.

Ways to Use Routines

If you have smart devices installed in your home you can create a routine to have Alexa control those devices however you desire. For instance, Alexa can turn down the thermostat, turn off the lights, and lock the doors when you say a command like “Alexa, I’m going to bed.

If you don’t have smart devices you can still create Echo routines. You can have Alexa wake you with an alarm at say, 7 a.m., tell you about the weather, and offer a traffic report. You can create a routine to have Alexa wake you up at 10 a.m. on Saturdays and play music, too.

Of course, you can combine smart home commands with Alexa commands. You can have the Echo wake you up and give you the weather, enable the plug connected to your coffee pot, and turn up the thermostat.

A screen shot in the Alexa app of the main screen showing Routines.
Routines, Skills, and Smart Home in the Alexa app.  Joli Ballew

Here are a few other things you can add to your routines:

  • Have Alexa say something. She can wish you a good day, give you a compliment, sing a song, or tell a joke, among others.
  • Play music from Amazon, your library, Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn, or iHeartRadio.
  • Play the news from your Flash Briefing.
  • Start any appliance that can be connected to a smart plug and left on, such as a lamp.
  • Schedule lights to go on an off when you’re away.
A screen shot in the Alexa app with options open for Alexa to speak.
Alexa can talk to you. Joli Ballew 

How to Create a Routine to Run on a Schedule

You can create two types of routines. There are those that will run on a schedule and others that start with a voice command. When you create a routine based on a schedule, you have to first define the time and days you want it to run. You might configure a work-related morning routine to run early in the morning only on weekdays, for instance. You might create another routine that wakes you up late to music on Spotify only on the weekends.

To create an Alexa routine that runs at a specific time:

  1. Open the Amazon Alexa app on your smart phone.
  2. Click Routines.
  3. Click the plus sign located near Create Routine (or just the plus sign if you’ve already created a routine prior.)
  4. Click Add Action.
  5. Click When This Happens.
  6. Click Schedule.
  7. Click At Time and set the time the routine should run. Click Done.
  8. Click Repeat and select the desired days. Click Done.
  9. Click Done again.
A screen shot in the Alexa app with Add Action showing.
Add an Action.  Joli Ballew
A screen shot in the Alexa app showing the options to schedule an action.
Schedule a routine.  Joli Ballew

To add actions (tasks) to a routine:

  1. Click Add Action.
  2. Choose a category. For this example, choose Alexa Says.
  3. Select from the list. For this example, choose Tell Me A Story.
  4. Click Add.
  5. 5.To choose which Echo Alexa device to use (if you have more than one), under From, select the device to use.
  6. Click Create.

Note: You’ll see the routine in the Routines list. To disable any routine, click it and move the slider from Enabled to Disabled.

To Create a Routine that Responds to a Voice Command

You know that there are two types of routines, scheduled and voice enabled. When you create the latter, you get to create the voice command you want to use.

To create a voice-activated routine and define your own key phrase:

  1. Open the Amazon Alexa app on your smart phone.
  2. Click Routines.
  3. Click the plus sign located near Create Routine (or just the Plus sign if you’ve already created a routine prior).
  4. Click When This Happens, and click Voice.
  5. Type the phrase you want to use to invoke the command, such as “Good Morning.
  6. Click Save.
A screen shot in the Alexa app with Voice as an option.
Create a voice activated routine.  Joli Ballew

To add actions (tasks) to a routine:

  1. Click Add Action.
  2. Click any category. For this example, click Traffic, and click Add.
  3. Continue to add actions as desired.
  4. Click Create.
A screen shot in the Alexa app with traffic report added to routine.
Add traffic reports.  Joli Ballew

Create a Routine that Includes a Smart Device

Before you can create a routine that includes a smart device you must first purchase and install a compatible device in your home, and connect it to your Wi-Fi network. You can start with a simple smart plug connected to a lamp, or you can install something more complex like a thermostat. With that done, you have to add that device in the Alexa app.

To configure Alexa to recognize your smart device:

  1. In the Alexa app, click Skills.
  2. Search for the skill that is associated with your device. (For example, Ring Video Doorbell.)
  3. Verify the skill is enabled.
  4. Click the Back button to return to the main menu and click Smart home.
  5. Click Add Device.
  6. Wait while Alexa discovers the device.
  7. Click Close.
A screen shot in the Alexa app with Skills open.
Add Skills for a smart device.  Joli Ballew
A screen shot in the Alexa app with a smart device available.
Choose your smart device.  Joli Ballew

To create a routine that includes a smart device:

  1. Open the Amazon Alexa app on your smart phone.
  2. Click Routines.
  3. Click the plus sign located near Create Routine (or just the Plus sign if you’ve already created a routine prior).
  4. Click When This Happens, and configure the settings for Voice or Schedule.
  5. Click Save (for voice) or Done (for schedule).

To add actions (tasks) to a routine:

  1. Click Add Action.
  2. Click Smart Home.
  3. Click the desired device.
  4. Configure the settings as applicable to the device.
  5. Click Add.
A screen shot in the Alexa app
The Smart Home category.  Joli Ballew
A screen shot in the Alexa app with a smart device available.
Choose your smart device.  Joli Ballew