“Alexa, set a timer for 10 minutes,” I say in the kitchen as I’m putting a pot of water on a burner, followed by “Alexa, set a timer for 20 minutes” as I pop some lasagne in the oven for reheating. Then Alexa’s alarm starts to sound, and that’s when the confusion begins: is it the rice that’s ready, or the pasta?
If you find yourself setting multiple Alexa timers, there’s an easy way to keep them all straight. You can also set sleep timers, ask for reminders, check how much time you have left on a timer, and more.
Read on for six handy ways to make the most of your Alexa timers, starting with…
1. Name your Alexa timers
So, you need to cook some rice for 10 minutes while roasting green beans in the oven for 15 minutes, and you want Alexa to do the timing for you. How do you keep those two timers straight?
Easy: just name your timers. For example, you can say, “Alexa, set a rice timer for 10 minutes,” and then, “Set a veggies timer for 15 minutes.” When the timers are done, Alexa’s alarm tone will sound, and she’ll say “Your rice timer is done,” followed (in five minutes) by “Your veggies timer is done.”
Once you name a timer, Alexa will remember it, meaning you can just say “Alexa, set a rice timer” and she’ll set it (using the above example) for 10 minutes without being told. You can always ask Alexa to change the length of any of your named timers.
2. Pause, resume, or add more time to an Alexa timer
Does it look like your rice needs a little more time in the pot? Just say “Alexa, add 1 minute to the rice timer” to stretch your cooking time.
You can also pump the breaks on an Alexa timer by saying “Alexa, pause the timer.” When you’re ready to resume the timer, just say (yes, you guessed it) “Alexa, resume the timer.”
3. See all your Alexa timers at once
If you have one of Amazon’s display-equipped Echo Show devices, you can ask Alexa to show all your active timers at once. Just say, “Alexa, show me my timers,” and you’ll get a list of your currently running timers, complete with their names and how much time remains on each.
Besides showing the details of all your timers, your Echo Show will also display a small summary of your timers in a bubble at the top of the Home screen. Tap the bubble, and you’ll go to the detailed list of your timers.
4. Ask for a reminder
You don’t even have to call them timers if you don’t want to. Instead, you can ask Alexa to remind you to do something. For example, you could say, “Alexa, remind me to take the laundry out of the dryer in 40 minutes.” You could also say, “Alexa, remind me to pick up my dry cleaning tomorrow at noon,” or “Alexa, remind me to make coffee every weekday morning at six.”
When it’s time for your reminder, Alexa will skip the beeping alarm in favor of a two-tone chime, and she’ll say (for example), “I’m reminding you, pick up the laundry.” She’ll repeat the reminder one more time in a few seconds, and she’ll also send push notifications to your mobile devices via the Alexa app.
5. Set a sleep timer
Alexa can also use timers to help you doze off. For example, she can slowly dim an Alexa-enabled light or smart dimmer, or she can turn off your tunes after a set period of time.
If you want Alexa to slowly dim and then turn off one of your smart lights, just say, “Alexa, set a sleep timer for 30 minutes on (in my case) Ben’s bedroom light,” or simply “Set a 5 minute sleep timer for lights” to dim the lights that are in the same room as the Echo device. To turn off your music after a set period of time, ask Alexa to tee up some tunes, then say, “Set a sleep timer for 30 minutes.”
6. Find out how much time is left on an Alexa timer
I often use Alexa reminders when it comes to allowing my daughter a little iPad time (she’s a Disney+ fanatic); and halfway through a 30-minute session, I’ll be wondering exactly how many minutes she has left of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
To find out, just ask, “Alexa, how much time is left on the iPad timer?” Alexa will then tell you how many minutes are remaining, which serves as a handy way to warn my daughter that her screen time is almost up.
Amazon Echo Show 15
Reviewed with $29.99 Sanus tilt stand; price as reviewed: $279.98
Ben has been writing about technology and consumer electronics for more than 20 years. A PCWorld contributor since 2014, Ben joined TechHive in 2019, where he covers smart speakers, soundbars, and other smart and home-theater devices. You can follow Ben on Twitter.