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Google Home Routines can get annoying. Here's how to avoid that

Your Google Home profile is no good if you don't use it. Simplify and streamline your morning Routine and enjoy the start of your day.

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You may want to wait until you've had your first cup of coffee before diving into the news report from a Google Home.

Dale Smith/CNET

I'm not a morning person. I am, however, hooked on Google Home Routines. But there's one type of Routine I've just never been able to nail down: a morning Routine. The problem is I need a wake-up routine that's just barely motivating enough to rouse me out of bed, but not so grating that I just end up shouting "OK, Google, stop!" and pulling a pillow over my head. So, I decided to take on one of the greatest challenges I've ever accepted willingly as a smart home enthusiast: to craft a morning routine that I'll actually use. 

This has been especially important these last few months, as quarantine and working from home have all but obliterated my old set of morning rituals. Maybe you're in the same boat and, like me, long for more consistency. Or maybe there's just stuff you want your Google Home to do for you in the morning (play the news, report the weather forecast) but you haven't quite figured out how to get it all done with just one command.

Well, I cracked the code. I sussed out which elements of a Google Home morning Routine energized me -- and which ones made me want to crawl back beneath the covers. Here's how I did it.

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You can start a Routine from any compatible device, like this Nest Hub on a nightstand, but then direct other Google Home smart speakers to carry out various Actions.

Dale Smith/CNET

What Routines are (and are not)

In case you're unfamiliar, a Google Home Routine is a set of tasks Google Assistant will carry out in response to a single voice command. You can create your own Routines, but there are a handful of default ones you can use and customize as well -- including one you trigger by simply saying, "Hey, Google, good morning."

To see which Routines you have for your Google Home setup, open the Google Home app, tap the Routines icon near the top and then at the bottom of your screen tap Manage routines. At the top of the list you should see your Good morning routine, which you can tap to edit. (To create a Routine from scratch, tap the + sign icon in the lower right corner.)

What Routines are not, however, is automatic. You have to trigger them with a voice command, which means if they annoy you so much you just avoid them, you probably won't get any benefit from them. That's why it's important to set them up right.

The key: Take advantage of multiple speakers

The average smart speaker household now has 2.6 devices, according to an April recent survey by NPR and Edison Research. I've got three Google Home and Nest Mini speakers and two Nest Hubs ($70 at Best Buy), so practically one for every room in my house (including the owner's suite bathroom). When crafting a Routine, you don't have to limit Actions to the speaker that hears the command -- you can actually direct traffic, as it were, to any or all of your other devices.

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The average smart speaker household has an average of 2.6 devices, according to a survey by NPR and Edison Research.

James Martin/CNET

This was key to creating a morning Routine that worked for me. You see, there's a conflict between what I want my morning to look like and what I'll actually tolerate -- but distributing my wants across multiple devices gives my brain the space it needs to wake up on its own terms.

For example, I want to hear the news in the morning, but in the first few minutes after waking up my brain just isn't ready for it. Solution: Play the news on the kitchen speaker, so I can start listening just as my first cup of coffee starts to kick in. Same goes for music -- I know an upbeat playlist will jazz me up in the morning, but I'm not really ready to rock out while I'm still struggling to open my eyes. Solution: Play music from the bathroom speaker to coincide with my morning shower.

Controlling my smart home devices

There are really only a couple of things I want to happen with my smart home devices when I first wake up: I want to turn up the thermostat and turn on my bedroom lights. Both my Google Nest Learning Thermostat and my Philips Hue lighting system are connected to my Google Home account, which makes this easy.

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You can reorder your Google Home Routine's Actions by tapping "Change order."

Screenshot by Dale Smith/CNET

The only confusing part is the Google Home app has two settings that could affect my smart bulbs: Adjust scenes and Adjust lights, plugs and more. I control my Philips Hue color bulbs by selecting Adjust scenes and choosing a scene I created called Golden White that turns my three bedroom lights on to a nice, warm white light set to 50% brightness. If you want that kind of granular control, you'll have to set up a scene in your smart bulb app ahead of time.

The other option, Adjust lights, plugs and more, only gives you the choice to turn your bulbs either off, or on to their most recent state. That means if the previous night I had been chilling in my bedroom with my Blood Moon scene (two dim dark blue lights and one dim red one) that's what would turn on -- not really a great vibe for in the morning.

My actual (nonannoying) morning Google Home routine

Once I realized I could distribute Actions across multiple devices, I had to decide what I wanted my bedroom Nest Hub to tell me about in those first few moments of consciousness. Turns out I'm mentally competent enough to handle the weather, my calendar and reminders and not much else.

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If you have a Google Nest Learning Thermostat, controlling it with a Google Home Routine is a breeze.

Dale Smith/CNET

Here's what my morning Routine now looks like:

  • I say, "Hey, Google, good morning."
  • Three Philips Hue color bulbs in my bedroom light up 50% in golden white.
  • My Nest Learning Thermostat ($270 at Amazon) changes to 70 degrees (it's set at 68 degrees at night).
  • Google Assistant reports the weather forecast.
  • If I have any calendar appointments or reminders that day, Google Assistant lists them.
  • The local adult contemporary public radio station starts playing from my bathroom speaker.
  • The local NPR news station starts playing in the kitchen.

Now that I have a Google Home morning Routine that doesn't get on my nerves, waking up with a Google Home has definitely earned its place on my list of the top five ways I love the Google Home ecosystem (even though I do admit the Google Home isn't perfect). To get the most out of your own Google Home, I highly recommend you go in and change these five settings right away.

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