The Best Siri Hacks to Boost Your Productivity

the best siri hacks for productivitySince getting my iPhone 7, I have been shocked to find that I’m actually using Siri. I thought I’d look into some useful Siri productivity hacks to share, as well as ways to make Siri better (there has to be a way, right?) for a fun discussion today. Are you using Siri to boost your productivity? (Or Cortana, or Alexa, or Google Home?) What are your favorite Siri hacks for productivity and otherwise getting stuff done? (And a general question that’s more office-related: In general do you use dictation as an office hack, either via dictation software or dictating memos for your assistant to transcribe?) 

My favorite Siri hacks thus far:

Use Siri as an easy Pomodoro timer.

I really like the Pomodoro technique for time management, but for some reason, I’ve never found a Pomodoro timer I liked — and going in to reset the timer on my phone manually has proved onerous. (I know, I have problems.) But I find it incredibly easy to say, “Hey Siri, start timer — 25 minutes.” (I actually listened to a whole podcast about how some people find other increments of time to be more productive, so I’ve been experimenting with 35, 45, and 55 minutes, on the theory that those were always good for me as far as class times.) Then, when the timer dings, I’m pretty good getting better about saying, “Hey Siri, start timer — 5 minutes,” to take my “get up and move” break.

Use Siri to read messages when your hands are unavailable.

This is a great Siri hack for when you have wet nails, your hands are messy from making dinner or dessert, or even if you’re driving (where your focus should obviously be on the road). She has some crazy ways of pronouncing things, but I always understand her well enough to know whether the text message is one requiring an immediate response or not. Plus, it’s amusing when she says “yellow thumbs up yellow thumbs up yellow thumbs up.”  She also gives you the opportunity to respond to the text message verbally and reads back what she’s going to send before you press send.

Prepare your phone for Siri by renaming certain contacts.

I’ve always listed my husband by his nickname in my phone, but after I started using Siri I changed it to his full, multi-syllable name — she almost always gets it right on the first try. (I did this after a funny incident where I tried to text him that I had arrived at a restaurant (“Here!”), Siri got confused, and my high school and college friend who’s an ER doc responded, “Wait, WHAT?” thinking (jokingly) I was showing up in her ER.)

Siri hacks for productivity I’ve heard of but am still perfecting myself:

Use Siri to request a specific song, artist, or genre.

Here’s my story on this one: It worked great for a very short while — for some reason, I got in the habit of requesting Ferron’s “Misty Mountain” whenever I had a down moment, and Siri would pull up the song and all would be great. Then, for some reason, I decided I’d prefer Siri to have a British accent instead of an American one, so I switched her to that. It seemed like her understanding of me diminished incredibly (perhaps they expect Siri’s accent to line up with yours?) so I switched her back to an American accent. Since then she’s been absolutely lousy at pulling up songs — for some reason every time I say “Siri, play the song Misty Mountain by Ferron” she starts playing a random Sarah McLachlan song, which for some reason enrages me.

Use Siri to dictate emails, short memos, or more.

A short text message I can do easily, but my main problem when using Siri to dictate something longer than a short text message is that she takes my natural speech pauses to think we’re done, and then she says something, which interrupts my thoughts. I’ve used Dragon Naturally Speaking in the past, but I was never an expert at it.  (I’ll also note that if you have a TON of this stuff, the app Rev is supposed to be amazing — for $1 a minute they will transcribe your recordings. Obviously, know your office and your job before you try to outsource work memos.)

Use Siri to search the web.

To be honest I’ve had more luck using Alexa here; we regularly ask Alexa what a restaurant’s hours are, or what the weather is, and more… but for some reason this hasn’t been on my radar of Siri tasks.

Use Siri to create reminders.

I’ve started to try to use this feature more, but to be honest, a lot of times I feel like my reminder notes go into the ether instead of going into the Reminders app.

I’d love to hear from you guys: Do you use any Siri hacks to boost your productivity? How about Alexa, Cortana, Google Home, and more? (Will someone please create a “Siri dictating game”? It would be awesome if it were like an old school Mavis Beacon typing game, k thx.) 

Further reading:

  • 16 Things You Should Know How to Do With Siri [MacWorld]
  • iOS 9 Includes Voice Training For Siri To Help Her Recognize Your Voice [Tech Times]
  • 10 Tips and Tricks to Make Siri Work Better [ZDNet]
  • Beyond Siri: Dictation tricks for the iPhone and iPad [MacWorld]
  • Take a letter, Siri: Can My iPad Handle Long-Form Dictation? [ZDNet]

Siri hacks for productivity: how to use Siri to get stuff done

Siri Hacks for Productivity: How to Use Siri to GSD


  1. Anonymous :

    I wish I could put a pronunciation into Siri for contacts. Siri keeps confusing my friends Jeannette and Zeenat. If I could just say them in my contacts, then Siri could tell the difference when I ask for one and not the other.
    Thanks for this list! I didn’t realize I could do all that.

    • You can correct Siri so that she pronounces names correctly. G00gle “correct siri on name pronounciation” and it will teach you how to teach Siri. I love that feature!

  2. Curly hair advice needed:

    I have loose curly hair (not tight coils– 3A by the Naturally Curly website standards). I tend to put curly mousse in it when it’s wet, then let it air dry overnight, and it looks decent but a little bit frizzy. I’m interested in suggestions of how to maintain curl while making it overall smoother (I know, the golden question of natural curls). Over the weekend I blow-dried my hair straight using a round brush for the first time, and then wore it twirled in a bun on top of my head for most of Sunday, and the result was nice smooth loose gentle curls on Monday. It looked nice, although maybe not quite “me” (since “me” is ordinarily a head fully of curls). I work in an office on the casual side of business casual, so I don’t need to look super trim and professional, but I would like my hair to look a little more “together”- which to me means smoothing out the frizz and overall softening the look.

    All of this is to ask: fellow curlies, what is your routine and what are your best tips to get smooth, put-together-looking curls? The tactic of blow drying with a round brush seemed to work okay, but I’d prefer something that maintains more of my natural curl, while just relaxing the curls a little bit to smooth them out.

    Hair style icon: Pam Beasley in the later seasons of The Office. I’m sure they had to curl her hair to get it to look just right, but my hair has about a similar level of curliness, but less smooth, so it seems like it should be doable.


    • I wash my hair only once or twice a week. The other times it just gets wet and rinsed. I leave in conditioner after every time I get it wet. Drugstore conditioner, or the one at the gym, it doesn’t matter. Then I spray oil in it or a scrunchy hair product. NaturalTech well being de stress lotion is the name of the oil. I spray it in when hair is dry or mostly dry then I twirl hair into ringlets. But the whole reason this works and doesn’t look like a frizzy mess is that my hairdresser herself has curly hair and has thinned/cut my hair so it no longer looks better straight than curly. I used to get it cut by people with straight hair and the cut looked awesome when they straightened it but not so awesome when my hair was as it is normally.

    • This is pretty individualized. Other friends with curly hair don’t follow my exact routine. But a few things we all do: get it cut by someone who specializes in curly hair, as Lobbyist suggested, and don’t wash it every day.

      My routine is: I wash my hair every 3-5 days, alternating using 1) Jessicurl shampoo and conditioner with 2) apple cider vinegar each time. So it actually gets shampooed every week to 10 days only. Whichever one I do, I comb it out while wet. Straight after washing, and while it’s soaking wet, I put Devachan light hold gel in it, and then put it in a towel using the “plopping” method (check out a youtube video, it’s harder to describe than to just find a video). 20 minutes or so in the towel, and then I sit under a standing hooded hair dryer (mine is Babyliss, and it was about $150) for about 20 minutes and it’s done until the next wash. I never put anything else in it.

      Also I sleep on a silk pillowcase. Allegedly this minimizes frizz too, and it seems to work? It’s hard to tell. The pillowcases are $20ish on Amazon though so it’s not that much of a waste of money if I’m just imagining it.

    • Still learning about curls :

      I’m also in the once every 5 days shampooing camp – it really makes a curly hair difference. Dry shampoo is the greatest thing to ever happen to curly hair IMO. I spray it on every night before bed and I wake up with nicely fluffed hair.

      My routine: wash, roll up in a towel (the plop is awesome) for 10 minutes, comb out with a detangling wooden comb then either air dry (more casual) or for better control, wrap up my hair in 3-4 sections a la pin curls and let dry overnight. Brush them out with my boar bristle in the morning and I have nice smooth curls

    • Sometimes I think I’m the only curly-haired girl who washes her hair every day :)

      Morning (post-workout): shower with shampoo and conditioner (fragrance free from Avalon Organics) – not the most moisturizing, but husband has a fragrance allergy and so that trumps my desire for extra hair moisture). Comb out in shower. Squeeze water out with a towel, apply leave-in conditioner and gel, and blow dry with diffuser for approx. 15-20 min. And, done.

      I cannot NOT wash my hair after a workout, and I workout 6 or 7 mornings a week, so there you go.

      • I definitely rinse mine every day, but only shampoo if it got super super sweaty (and I’m pretty sweaty). But I also can’t sleep on mine and have them look good–they flatten out and/or stick sideways or something.

    • Squiggles :

      Mine is a bit different because it depends on season and weather. In the winter, I wash mine every 3 days and let it air dry naturally, which means washing it at night and laying it over a pillow. If I don’t want to do that, then it lives in a braid for the first day and I have wonderful, smooth waves.

      In the summer, my hair is shorter and I wash it every other day in the morning. I then will scrunch in some anti-frizz cream, touching my hair as little as possible). The next day, I will spray it with water and scrunch it up a bit.

      The key for avoiding frizz is to touch your hair as little as possible, especially when wet. And if you live in a humid environment, just about nothing will help you out there.

  3. KateMiddletown :

    My SO asks Alexa what the commute is like every morning around the time we’re eating breakfast, and I’ll ask her what time it is when I’m getting ready for work and can’t see a clock. Our daughter loves asking Alexa to play music. Interesting article in WSJ about teaching your kids boundaries with this tech:

    • I ask Siri for direction’s when I walk. I tell her where I am, and ask her to tell me how to get to a place from the East Side to Midtown. YAY!!!

  4. I use the reminders a lot, but specifically for things that I need to do at a specific place, i.e. “Siri, remind me to put the letter in the mailbox when I arrive at home.” I use it for home and work, and even the grocery store (but you have to add your grocery store’s address into your address book).

    • KateMiddletown :

      Yes – Alexa for grocery store too. She keeps a list on the app so I can reference it and we can all add/cross off when things are purchased.

  5. Account transition :

    I bought a company (service, but not professional service) last year and things are not going well. One struggle right now is our biggest customer (most profitable, largest percentage of sales) has been handled by the same person for about a decade. Said person is semi-retiring. He was supposed to go part time Jan 1-June 1 and only serve as a “senior advisor.”
    He has been reluctant to bring his replacement to meetings at the client, claiming he forgot or they’re not a big deal, etc. Except when he is leaving for a week (usually once a month for vacation) Customer seems to be happy still but we need to stay in front of this. Overall, the company is happy with everyone who works with them, so it will take a major issue with this transition to lose the customer, but that doesn’t make it any less concerning.
    He is also supposed to be handing off daily responsibilities (going after new work/invoicing/direct managing) but has been doing it so long, he struggles to NOT do it.
    I need to develop a specific transition plan for this guy to transition out of his daily role into an advisory role and more specifically, come up with a transition plan for this large customer that is structured in a way that I can manage it.
    Do any of you have any experience with these types of transitions?

    • Coach Laura :

      My suggestion is a contract with a bonus for completion. Basically you are going to pay him to do x, y and z and a payment to encourage cooperation. It’s what I’d insist on as an employee and protects both. It gives you the opportunity to spell out cooperation that seems obvious to you. Incentivize the happiness of the best customer. Include the preparation of a transition plan from him too.

  6. I have had great luck using Siri for reminders, the key is to tell her exactly when to remind you…”Hey Siri, remind me tomorrow at 9am to call Joe back”

  7. Aleksandra Rybacka :

    Hi, Kat!
    Happy to inform you this post has been mentioned in the recent episode of our Productivity Articles roundup!
    Thank you so much for sharing this fantastic tips.
    Please find the entire roundup here:
    Aleksandra Rybacka, Social Media Manager at TimeCamp

  8. Anonymous :

    Siri also will beatbox and divide 0 by 0, if you ask her to. Not productive, but fun.

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