Productivity has been one of the mostly discussed topics in the recent days with the most people working from home and almost everything going online.
We've seen people face many issues like not taking breaks at all or being distracted too much. Most don't achieve all the tasks because they don't have a proper plan, or because they forget the time to begin a task.
Yes, there are a significant amount of mobile apps that can solve these issues. But after a small survey we understood that the mobile phone is a distraction to some and using a mobile app to increase efficiency never happens.
Voice Skills is growing very fast and there are voice skills to solve most of the every day problems. Voice skills themselves are efficient, you don't have to disturb your work while using it. Just your voice is enough. Therefore, we've analyzed the best features of few mobile apps, and also added few features that can boost your efficiency into one Alexa Skill, and it was called Uplift Efficiency.

What it does

Uplift Efficiency is a very user-friendly Alexa skill that you can start using by just saying "Alexa, open Uplift Efficiency" to any supported device. It consists of 4 main features at the moment. • Day Planner • Productivity Timer • Screen Timer • Challenges

Day Planner Organize your day and keep track of the tasks in your day. Add all the tasks in a typical day including Sleep, Work/School, Sports and Exercises, Leisure and Custom Tasks. You can add the begin time and the end time for all these tasks, then we'll arrange all the tasks in an order and make it your daily routine. Then you can set reminders for the tasks in the day plan. You will be reminded when to begin and end the tasks in your day plan. Also you can edit the day plan or refer to it at anytime...

Productivity Timer Boost your productivity by properly organizing your work-break pattern. You can choose one clock out of the 3 available clocks to begin with. You can choose between Pomodoro timer, 52/17 timer, Ultradian timer. After setting one default clock you can tell you work session. (Eg: "Begin a work session of 3 hours and 30 minutes") Then reminders will be set at every time you need to switch from work to break or break to work. These reminders are just like any other reminder on Alexa, but they'll be set up automatically.
This feature uses Alexa Conversations in getting the users work session. Without asking the user, for how many hours do you need the work session? for how many minutes do you need the work session? Alexa Conversations is used to make the skill building easier as well as more natural.

Screen Timer Take care of your eyes; take a break while using devices with screens. Similar to the Productivity Timer you can ask Alexa to begin a screen session and you will be reminded every time you've got to take a break and get back to work. This works according to the 20 20 20 rule, where you take a 20 second break every 20 minutes to look at something which is 20 feet away.
This feature uses Alexa Conversations in getting the users screen session. Without asking the user, for how many hours do you need the work session? for how many minutes do you need the work session? Alexa Conversations is used to make the skill building easier as well as more natural.

Challenges 5 Day Challenges to boost your efficiency. Just select a 5 day challenge and get started. Currently only 2 challenges are available, it is the sleep challenge and the leisure challenge. In the sleep challenge you need to do 5 tasks on 5 consecutive days before sleep. Whereas is the leisure challenge you need to do the 5 allocated tasks during your leisure time. More challenges are to be added in the future. This feature is only available to premium users.

Premium There is also a premium version. Features of Premium include:

  • The Challenges feature.
  • Can create up to 4 accounts.
  • More Customization when setting timers etc.

Alexa Conversations within the skill

This skill was built to enter the Alexa Conversations skill challenge. So we've included the Alexa Conversations feature within the skill. Using Alexa Conversations indeed made the skill building much more easier as well as more natural. Currently the features Productivity Timer and Screen Timer use the Alexa Conversations feature to get the user's screen / work session in just one simple phrase. Or if the user doesn't say all the required data, the user will be prompted for them again.

How it was built

Different tools were used to make the skill building easier. Zapier Integrations were used for some tasks to run. Google Sheet Integrations were used to store and retrieve most of the data. The Alexa Developer Console's Display Builder was used to create the UI for devices with screens. etc.

Challenges we ran into

  1. Day planner: we ran into a problem when trying to create and retrieve data too often within the conversation. Alexa would reply with "The requested skill has an error" It was difficult to solve it so we came up with another solution instead of Google sheets only for that feature.

  2. Productivity Timer and Screen Timer: After an user sets a reminder for the first time the data isn't deleted. Then when the user sets a reminder again the same data of the first time is recurred. Deleting data in Google sheets wasn't possible as too much interactions would prompt users to errors. So, we had to develop it so that if the user has set a reminder already the data needs to be updated and not created again.

  3. Productivity Timer: The pomodoro clock has short sessions, 25 minutes or work and 5 minutes of break, so it was difficult to set a lot of reminders if an user's work session is long. Since it required a lot of reminders we had to limit the work session to a relevant time.

  4. Challenges: There was a difficulty setting up reminders. We needed to calculate the time until the reminders and set it in that manner.

  5. Challenges: Then came up an issue with timezones, because now() in google sheets takes the current time in my timezone, but users are located in different timezones. So we wrote a small code and used an API to get the users timezone. But there was an issue with it, because sometimes it failed and sometimes it was successful. But after some troubleshooting we solved it.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We're proud about being able to successfully build this Alexa skill. We've never built an Alexa skill with this much of features before, so it was challenging and we overcame it.

What we learned

We learned a lot in the world of Skill Building. We're new to this and have just built 2 small skills before. So we learned a lot about skill building.

What's next for Uplift Efficiency

We've planned to launch the skill on Product Hunt as it can bring a lot of users to our skill. Also we'd be continuing updating this skill adding more features.


A project by Somizu. (The team at Somizu)

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