Smart speakers like Google Home come with a litany of preset commands that can play music, control smart home gadgets, or set reminders. However, with a little tweaking, you can create your own custom commands that can do several things at once. If you don’t already have a smart speaker or smart display, we’ve reviewed the best smart speakers with Google Home here.
Why You Would Want to Use Routines
While smart gadgets can be useful for a lot of things—there’s nothing quite like the convenience of turning off your bedroom light from under the covers—they’re often persnickety, requiring very specific voice commands to work properly.
Routines let you simplify the commands you use regularly, stack multiple commands together, and even automatically perform certain actions based on the time of day. Instead of saying, “OK, Google. Turn off bedroom and play rain sounds,” and hoping Google correctly processes that those are two separate commands, you can say “OK, Google. Good night” and have a routine take care of the rest.
Google Home comes with a few template routines to get you started, but we’ll walk through how to create your own custom routine so you can make your smart speaker behave exactly the way you want it to.
What You Can Do With Routines
Google’s premade routines focus on things like your morning or evening routine, because those are fairly universal tasks that anyone can use. But they’re also not very imaginative. If you’re having trouble seeing why you’d want to go to the fuss of building your own custom routine, here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Make long, complicated commands easier. Philips Hue lights let you create custom color profiles, from bright saturated color themes to soft, warm lighting for reading. But switching between them with commands like “Set living room to Relax” is awkward and requires you to memorize a lot of scene names. Instead, create a routine with the command “Reading time” and program it to automatically set the correct lighting profile, and put on some soft jazz while you’re at it.
- Get ready for a movie. When it’s time to watch a movie—something you probably do a lot at home these days—you need to turn the lights down low, turn on the TV, and maybe turn on your TV’s backlight. The routine in movie theaters of playing a couple trailers before dimming the lights really helps you get into the mood to watch a film, and it’s something you can replicate with routines in your own house.
- Block out distractions. Your smart home gadgets aren’t the only thing a Google Home can control. It can also turn your phone on silent, which can be handy for work or study sessions. Create a focus routine that will mute your phone and start playing some lofi beats to study to.
With a little imagination, you can come up with more uses for routines that can make your smart speakers a lot more useful for your exact needs.
How to Set Up a Routine
Routines can be found inside the Google Home app. You probably used this to set up your Google devices initially, and you can integrate a lot of other smart home gadgets in this one app. After opening the app, tap your profile picture in the upper right corner and choose Assistant Settings, then Routines.
From here, you have two options. First, you can explore the ready-made routines. These are suggested routines that aren’t active just yet. These include routines for getting up in the morning, going to bed, leaving or coming back home, and commuting to or from work.
These routines can be triggered with multiple commands. For example, the “Good morning” routine can be activated by saying “Good morning,” “Tell me about my day,” or even “I’m up.” It offers a list of preset actions those commands can trigger like telling you about the weather, listing your events for the day, and reading off any reminders.
At the top of the screen, you can tap Add a Routine to create your own. When you do, you’ll have a few options to enter:
- Add commands: Here, you’ll need to enter the words that will activate the routine. You can add several different commands or variations of the phrase, so you’re not stuck trying to remember the exact phrasing. Keep in mind that these commands can override others that your smart speaker knows, so try to avoid using existing commands like “Good morning,” unless you’re comfortable hijacking those phrases for your own use.
- Set a time and day: Optionally, you can choose to activate your routine automatically at a certain day and time. You can set this schedule to repeat every week on certain days, every weekday, or on any other schedule you prefer. If you’d rather only activate the routine when you call for it, you can skip this step.
- Add action: This step is the meat and potatoes of routines. You can browse popular actions—like broadcasting a message to other speakers, turning lights on or off, or reading out the weather—to add them to a list. You can also enter your own actions by writing any valid Google Home command. If you use third-party actions, like smart home controls, or if you’ve built your own, like a custom joke bot, you can call them here. You can add any number of actions here, and the routine will run each of them in order.
- And then play: In this box you can add an additional action that will play some kind of media once all the previous actions have run. You can choose to play music, news or radio, a podcast, an audiobook, or some ambient sleep sounds. Unlike the previous actions, you can only choose one (since any of them will run for a while), but it’s a handy way to start listening to music or your daily news briefing during your morning routine.