Could A Personal Assistant Support Your Time Management Efforts?

Are you one of the 70 percent of workers who look at their phone within 30 minutes of waking up? Having trouble keeping up with emails, notifications, messages, alerts, feeds, data, and information?

Would you like a little help? How about using a personal assistant?

No longer a perk only for the super-rich or business executives, for most of us, a personal assistant is as close as our pocket or purse.

For years, we have had access to our own intelligent assistant (IA). We carry IAs around on our laptops (Microsoft's Cortana); phones (Google Assistant, Apple's Siri, Samsung's Bixby); and smart speakers (Amazon's Alexa and Baidu's Little Fish). There are an estimated one billion IA-enabled devices in the world today. With smartphone penetration in the UK and US approaching 70 percent, it is easy to believe that there will be as many intelligent assistants as human beings in just a few years.

The capabilities of IAs have increased over the last few years, and yet most consumers do not use them, spending only a few minutes a month with them. We are not yet used to the idea that an IA is the answer. So, why is this?

Part of the reason is that, for several years, the hardware and software has not quite been up to the task. Though Siri has been around since the iPhone 3 (2009), it is only in recent years that a coordinated app ecosystem and ever-increasing processing power has addressed many previous performance deficiencies.

For others, loss of privacy and data is a limiting factor. However, given that consumers buy 10 million smart speakers every quarter, knowing that these devices listen to every word we utter in our homes, those concerns seem minimal. Marc Zao-Sanders "The Productivity Booster You Have in Your Pocket, But Probably Don't Use" (Jul. 19, 2018).

Commentary and Checklist

One of the big draws of using IAs is their ability to constantly monitor and respond to ever-changing environmental conditions.

For instance, they can keep your home safe. Your IA can connect to your smart home security devices to make it easier to keep your property safe. Using the Blink security camera system and Amazon’s Alexa device, you can give voice commands to arm and monitor the system.

Connected to your thermostat or smart lights, tell Google Home or Alexa you are leaving the house, and the IA will adjust the home temperature, saving as much as 16.5 per cent in energy costs, according to one survey.

However, there are downsides. The cost savings may be outweighed by the initial cost of the device, at least at the outset.

Security and privacy concerns also remain a big drawback. Remember that an IA is essentially a microphone in your home. Your Amazon Echo interactions are stored in the cloud. You should always make sure your home Wi-Fi network is secure by using strong passwords and regularly checking for and installing software updates.

Finally, voice recognition is not perfect. Although the technology has come a long way, you still have to occasionally repeat yourself to make the smart speaker understand your command, which can be frustrating.

Here are some other time management strategies for your consideration:     

  • Take time to examine where and how you are wasting time.
  • Make a to-do list and be realistic.
  • The goal is to accomplish your highest priority items each day, filling in with lower priority items as you can or move them to the next day.
  • Categorize your paper piles: Trash, Delegate, Do.
  • Keep a clean, clutter-free workspace.
  • Don't waste time waiting. Always have something with you to review.
  • Establish routines and stick to them, but don't overcommit. Schedule "fun" breaks for yourself.
  • Don't forget to schedule some open time for unforeseen events or deadlines that could shift your day.
  • Limit your time with mobile devices and email. Constantly checking email and responding is distracting and pulls your attention away from your current project.
  • Schedule a time, once an hour for example, to respond to and write emails.
  • Complete unpleasant tasks first.
  • For larger tasks, divide them into smaller pieces to make them more manageable.
  • Practicing good time management limits stress, especially from deadlines.
Finally, your opinion is important to us. Please complete the opinion survey: