Time is the most valuable resource any entrepreneur or business has, which is why we're always on the lookout for technology that makes it easier to stay organized and make the most of every work day. Many PC users are already familiar with Cortana, an AI personal assistant that runs on Windows 10 machines, but a tool is only valuable if you know how to use it to your advantage.
Here are five ways busy entrepreneurs and small businesses can use the AI sidekick Cortana to boost productivity and efficiency.
1. Create reminders and set alarms using your voice
Once "Hey Cortana" is enabled on your devices, you can use your voice to tell the Microsoft AI assistant to save reminders for you. This is one of those tools that seems minor but can end up being a total lifesaver. You can say such things as, "Hey, Cortana, remind me to check my invoice status on Friday at 2 p.m.," and when the specified date and time rolls around, Cortana will send you a reminder. You can also use Cortana to set alarms for you, so you'll never be late again (theoretically).
2. Dictate notes to Cortana and save them to OneNote
Are you constantly jotting down ideas on spare pieces of paper while you halfheartedly promise yourself that (at some point) you'll organize everything? Well, it's time to move forward and ditch your loose-leaf addiction forever. You can dictate your notes directly to Cortana and then save them to OneNote for easy access later. This is especially helpful if you have a business partner or support staff that needs to be able to access your notes, but even if you're a one-person operation, it's a great way to ensure that all your notes are gathered in a centralized location.
3. Let Cortana schedule meetings for you
You may know that you can ask Cortana to add things to your calendar, but now you can get help with the scheduling too. Microsoft's Project Calendar.help is still in the beta/preview phase, but you can sign up for the waitlist now.
Once you sign up, Calendar.help collaborates with Cortana and uses AI to schedule meetings for you. All you do is send an email specifying the length of the meeting, as well as the location and subject, then send it to the relevant people and cc Cortana. At that point Cortana will take over, manage all the back-and-forth emails for you, and then send an invitation (from you) to all the attendees listed on the email. The meeting will automatically go on your calendar, and Cortana will even follow up with attendees who don't respond to the meeting request within 48 hours.
4. Perform calculations and conversions
Need to calculate a quick percentage? Forgot the conversion rate between USD and yen? Cortana is great for performing off-the-cuff calculations and conversions. One of the major benefits to performing calculations with Cortana is that you can use regular language to ask your question. Simply ask, "What percentage of 15,000 is 400?" and Cortana will tell you. You don't have to set up the problem or figure out how to do the calculation. You can also ask for volume and weight conversions, temperature conversions, and time zone conversions.
5. Use Timeline and Pick Up Where I Left Off
Technically this feature won't be fully enabled until September 2017, when the Windows 10 Fall Creators edition goes live, but it's worth mentioning now because it looks like a game changer. In the new Windows 10, there will be a feature called Timeline that keeps track of everything you do, from listening to a song to using QuickBooks. Timeline will work with Cortana to keep you organized across all your devices once you enable Pick Up Where I Left Off. You'll be able to start reading an article on your Android or iPhone, and then pick it up again on your laptop or tablet.
In addition to these five features, Cortana can help you do all sorts of things, such as dictate and send emails, check on the weather, track flight and package statuses, and search your computer or the internet using voice control. Cortana is a powerful AI personal assistant if you know how to use it, and its functionality will only get better and more intuitive over time. Check back with us soon for more helpful tips on using tech to further your small business.