We cancelled busy.
We know “busy is not a badge of honour”.
And “busy” is no longer an acceptable response to the question “how are you?”.
But do any of us suddenly have less stuff to do? Between work and family life, Monday to Friday flies by and I spend the weekend playing catch-up rather than catching up with the people and things I love.
At the start of the year I set myself a goal to win back my weekends. We’re two-thirds of the way through and so far I’ve only moved the needle on one thing: I invested in myself and got an EspressoDisplay, a ridiculously slim portable monitor. A lot of my work needs two screens, which meant certain tasks were limited to the office or home. But the Espresso is LIGHT (less than a kilo) so I can take it with me.
It has plug and play functionality which is a techy way of saying it connects to my laptop with one cable and doesn’t need a power point. There’s no waiting around for it to power up, so I can start (and more importantly finish) working in seconds. Now I can squeeze in that extra interview from the cafe or car before school pickup. Net result: I’m doing a lot less catching up on work over the weekend.
This upgrade inspired me to look for other ways to streamline my work-life.
Now my Instagram feed is 90% productivity hacks and 10% my friends’-friends COVID delayed weddings. And thank goodness for that 10%, because this is how I learnt that everyone is using AI productivity tools like ChatGPT, BARD and LLaMA to make their lives easier. From planning honeymoon itineraries to writing wedding speeches, people are proud about how they used AI to hack the process.
If it can work for weddings, surely it can work for work. I decided to ask ChatGPT what I could do to fix my work week.
I spent a good 15 minutes perfecting my brief. I outlined my job, my clients, my home life, and my pain points. I asked for practical suggestions, specific directions, real life examples and evidence based everything.
The result was…
It read like productivity bingo.
“Time Blocking” - tick
“Prioritization Matrix” - tick
“Password Managers” - tick
“Auto Responses” - tick
“Stand Up Meetings” - tick
“Batching” - tick
“Meal Prep” featured twice. The internet loves meal prep.
Only the last point held my attention: “Using AI Assistants For Work”
Anyone who really knows AI, knows that the secret to ChatGTP is prompts. Specifically the quality of the prompt (what you type in the box), dictates the quality of the response you get back.
I believe the technical term is: “$#!t in, $#!t out”.
I’d given a rubbish prompt. The basic maths didn’t even stack up. I - a very busy person - was asking ChatGTP what additional things I could be doing, so that I could do less.
No wonder I hated every suggestion. They all felt like hard work.
Because they are work.
Like most work-life balance tips, they all involved more work. For me to do.
So I tried a lazier approach.
“I need help streamlining work tasks. What are some of the things ChatGTP can do for me?” I asked.
“Please.” I added quickly, because I want to be lazy, but I also want to be on the nice list when our AI overlords inevitably take over.
My good manners paid off. ChatGPT really delivered. Here are six of my favourite suggestions I’m already implementing to get things done faster and with less faff:
1. Meeting Preparation and Follow Up: Virtual meeting assistance was first on ChatGPT’s list. Clearly a favourite. So I figured I’d treat my AI assistant and ask for help with a team meeting. I told ChatGPT what we wanted to get out of the session and asked for an agenda. Then I challenged it to flesh out my talking points about a new employee referral program. Post meeting I used ChatGPT to polish my notes into actions and draft follow up messages. In general the content it produced was 75% of the way there, I wouldn’t feel confident to send anything out unedited but it was a huge head start.
2. Research: There’s an answer for nearly everything on the internet, but no time to read it all. I needed to present about how people shop online. So I got ChatGPT to summarise findings about consumer habits and factors influencing purchasing decisions. Then I cherry picked the most surprising insights for my presentation. Pro tip: ChatGPT’s knowledge is pretty limited to events before 2021, so it’s better for enduring truths rather than the latest trends.
3. Idea Generation: Coming up with new ideas can be a massive timesuck. I’ve been briefing ChatGPT to brainstorm creative concepts. I even tried this covertly in a virtual meeting. When the “casual kick off conversation” quickly turned into a brainstorm I plugged in my Espresso Display as a second screen so I could run ChatGPT without blocking my view. The Espresso’s plug and play functionality meant the transition was seamless, invisible to everyone but me. I made use of the customised screen sharing settings I’d pre-saved so I could run my AI ideas factory in stealth mode. Again, I think I’ll always need to edit ideas before sharing (some of them are hilarious) but it gets things going much faster.
4. Content Generation: The ideas factory also works for content. I’ve been giving a brief overview and then using ChatGPT to draft emails, blog posts, and even a rhyming birthday card message. I’m one of those people who gets stuck with a blank page, so I love content drafting with AI to give me a quick first draft that I can build on.
5. Data Analysis: Analysing customer reviews for my clients used to be hugely time consuming, for relatively little insight. A few people will share really meaningful feedback that will make for good content, the rest will be a version of: “I love it”, “I hate it” or “it’s too expensive”. To save time I gave the reviews to ChatGPT to analyse the sentiment. Normally the type of task I’d have to burden a junior team member with, data analysis with AI gave me instant consolidated feedback, with interesting quotes ready for me to use.
6. Proofreading and Editing: Tired, busy people shouldn’t proof their own work. I’ve used proofreading and editing AI tools, like Grammarly, to edit written work for grammar, punctuation, and even style improvements for a long time. As part of this experiment I also tried ChatGPT but found it tended to skew formal, so I’ll keep testing specific prompts to nail my personal tone. I need my AI assistant to learn that no one will die if I choose to start sentences with “but”.
Despite the media hype, ChatGPT isn’t going to steal our jobs. There’s always going to be oversight and a decent chunk of editing. BUT, it will make your work life so much easier if you get your prompts right.
If you’re already outsourcing to AI tools like ChatGPT, tell us what you’re delegating. Share your favourite prompts in the comments below.