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How You Can Use Siri to Be More Productive

March 25th, 2015

Siri is your personal digital assistant available on “newer” iPhones (i.e. iPhone 4S and later models).

In this post, we’ll explore some ways you can make productive use of her (or him as you can change Siri’s Voice Gender in Settings)!

How to Summon Siri

While connected to the Internet, press and hold down your iPhone’s “Home” Button until Siri responds:



(If you change your mind about using Siri, simply press the Home button one time.)

Activate Siri (if necessary)

If Siri doesn’t respond, you may need to active “her” (Siri is a female voice by default) by…

– opening your iPhone’s Settings
– tapping “General”
– Selecting Siri
– and then sliding the Siri button to “on”


Take a note

Summon Siri and say “Take a Note.”

After Siri responds, tell her what you want you want the note to say.


You can then open your iPhone’s Notes application and see the note you just created:


Open an App

You can use to Siri to open any app on your iPhone.

Here for example, I asked Siri to “Open Notes.”


Search Google for…

Working on a project and need some quick info?

You can use Siri to search Google for the answers you seek.

In this example, I quickly retrieved the United States’ current rate of unemployment:


Remind me to…

I need to take out the recyables and the trash every Wednesday evening so for this example, I used Siri to set a recurring reminder.

I summoned Siri and said “Remind me to take to take out the recyclables and the trash every Wednesday at 7PM” (or words to that effect).


After I confirmed, Siri obligingly created that weekly reminder:


(Note: I edited the text of the reminder as Siri misquoted me slightly.)

Confirmation, please

When Siri asks, “Shall I create it?”, you can either tap the Confirm button or say “Yes.”


What is the weather?

Curious about what you need to wear? Or what the weather conditions will be when you leave work?

You can ask Siri for today’s Weather forecast:


Set a date

In this example, I’ll ask Siri to create a calendar event.

Summon Siri and say “Create a Calendar Event” (or words to that effect).

In this example, I asked Siri to “schedule a meeting with Renee tomorrow at 11 AM:



Send an email or a text message

You can use Siri to quickly compose and send a short email or text message.

1. Summon Siri
2. Say “Send an email to [somebody in your Contacts]”
3. Tell Siri the Subject of your email message
4. Tell Siri what you want to email to say
5. Tell Siri to send


These are just a few examples of how you can use Siri to be more productive (and help offset the cost of your iPhone / iPad).

Further Reading

41 Siri Tips, Tricks and Hidden Features

Siri User Guide

Siri Tricks (and funny stuff)

Putting your iPhone to productive use

March 16th, 2015

iphone 6 stockYes, to be sure, iPhones are wondrous devices that raise the bar for coolness.

But they are also very expensive!

To help offset their cost, you can make your iPhone earn its keep by putting it to productive use.

The iPhone comes pre-loaded with a number of free apps that can help you Get Things Done.


You can use the Reminders app to keep track of the tasks that you need to perform — and to remind you when it’s time to carry them out.

For example, I need to take out the trash and recyclables every Wednesday evening, so I’ve set a weekly reminder to do so:


You can use the Weather app to be advised if you need to wear galoshes or put on a fur parka.

You can’t Get Things Done if you have pneumonia.



In addition to jotting down any extraordinary notions that pop into your head, you can use the Notes app to outline projects and/or create a list of to-dos.



You can use the Calendar app to keep track — and set alerts for — the various events you need (or want) to attend.

You can’t Get Things Done if you are not where you need to be when you need to be there.



You can use the Safari web browser to look things up, find information that you need to carry out your to-dos, complete your projects and achieve your goals.



If you see something that inspires you or reminds you of something that you need to do or would like to do, you can use the iPhone’s built-in camera to snap its picture.


Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.
— David Allen

Ideas to Start Your Own Business From Home

March 9th, 2015

coffee-cup-with-penYour best hedge against finding yourself in serious financial trouble in the event of losing your job may very well be to start your own business.

If you can start a business from home and with no money down that would be even better as your venture would essentially be risk-free.

The only thing you stand to lose is the time you spent working on it.

The options for starting a business are practically limitless.

Here for example are 55 business ideas from Entrepreneur Magazine:

50 Side Businesses You Can Start On Your Own from The Simple Dollar:

and from 65 Home Business Ideas You Can Do From Your Kitchen Table from Good Financial Cents:

But if you can create something, you may want to consider creating and selling your own product(s).

Local artisan and businesswoman Maria Castellano-Usery, for example creates wonderful works of art in her home and offers them on her website and various physical venues such as the 2nd Friday Brunswick ArtWalk.

If you’re like me and you can’t paint or draw or sculpt but there are things you know how to do such as:

– upholster furniture
– repair small engines
– play the piano
– use a computer
– walk dogs
– prepare gourmet meals
– raise thoughtful and responsible cats =^.^=
– meditate
– make a scrapbook

Then you could write an e-book or create a DVD teaching other folks whatever you know how to do.

In a nutshell, anything you know how to do or any problem you know how to solve may very well be transmogrified into a marketable product.

How to Write an e-book by Amy Lynn Andrews:

Instructional Design Essentials: Creating Video Training from

The overhead to creating a digital product can be practically nil and you may be able to create one on one of Curtis Library’s Public PCs or on your own notebook computer connected to the Curtis Library’s free wi-fi.

There’s something alluring about chilling in your comfy pants while in the confines of your own home and getting paid at the same time.

What to Do With Your Extra $550…

March 2nd, 2015

save-moneyThe average U.S. household can expect to spend $550 less at the gasoline pump in 2015 thanks to both falling gasoline prices and more fuel-efficient vehicles, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Question: What would be the smartest thing to do with those savings?

Possible Answers: MarketWatch offers four ideas:
1) Use the savings to pay down debt. 2) Put the $550 into your retirement fund. 3) Put the money into your Emergency Fund. 4) Catch up on routine maintenance.

If you’ve got debt — particularly high-interest credit card debt — paying it down is likely the most important thing to use that money for, explains Kathleen Campbell, the founder of Campbell Financial Partners in Fort Myers, Fla. “You won’t get any greater return than to not pay high interest rates on debt” explains Campbell.

Putting just $550 in your retirement fund could yield you $8,000 or more over the course of 30 years. Brimhall of Ameriprise uses the following example: If the $550 was put into a 401(k) and got a full dollar-for-dollar employer match, it would mean $1,100 being invested. Assuming average returns of 7% year, in 10 years that money would be worth $2,164, and in 30 years the value would be $8,375. Even without the employer match that is still nearly $4,200 in 30 years. And even if you assume a more modest return of, say, 4%, that investment (the $550 with a 100% employer match on it) would still yield you more than $3,500 over 30 years.

Experts recommend that Americans have six to 12 months or more of living expenses in savings that they can tap into in case of emergency, but most don’t: More than one in four Americans have no emergency savings, according to, and roughly two-thirds have less than six months’ income. What’s more, nearly half (47%) of Americans experienced unforeseen expenses in the previous 12 months, according to a 2014 survey by American Express.

Sometimes we avoid routine maintenance on things like our cars or homes (or even ourselves) because we feel we don’t have the cash for it. But these kinds of expenses can “blossom into costly repairs if not taken care of,” Campbell says. This year, use that gas savings for things like car oil changes and tune-ups, regular doctor’s checkups and visits, filter replacements in furnaces and other appliances, and more.

How Much $$$ Should I Put Away?

February 23rd, 2015

squirrel One of the first steps in getting a handle on your finances is learning how to save money.

This is, of course, easier said than done.

Humans should take note of squirrels — who know how (and presumably why) to save some of their nuts for Winter.

Check out this short, easy to read article from the MintLife Blog:
What Gets Paid First? The Best Way to Prioritize Your Savings Plan

And this article from

For keeping track of your savings progress, there are some free (non-commercial) online tools like the FINRA Savings Calculator.

Freedom is low overhead.