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7 ways ChatGPT can save you time
Using AI to make your life a little easier, from grocery shopping to bedtime stories
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5 min read
As AI chatbots have become increasingly mainstream, we’ve seen a predictable emergence of the never-impressed Internet commentators. Sure, ChatGPT can write entire books and code functional websites from scratch, they’ll say, but that poem about barbies that I asked it to write in the style of Emily Dickinson was kind of repetitive. [shrug]
There are many valid criticisms about the current (and future) landscape of artificial intelligence. But the idea that it’s overblown? That AI doesn’t live up to the hype?
I’m not buying it.
This technology is transformative. So much so that it’s already bringing a series of new risks and challenges, which will likely only grow over time.
But it’s also bringing incredible innovations. Some of these innovations are revolutionizing entire industries and changing how we live and work. Others are revolutionary on a smaller-scale, saving us time and making our day-to-day lives just a little bit easier.
Today, I want to talk about some of these smaller-scale innovations.
And how, exactly, do I [air quotes] “use AI”?
Let’s break it down quickly for those who are unfamiliar (no judgment here). How can you actually get started using AI in your everyday life?
We’ll focus on ChatGPT. As a reminder (from this post about AI and therapy), ChatGPT is currently the most popular artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot available.1 It is run by a company called OpenAI, and built on top of Open AI’s “large language models” (LLMs), which are giant algorithms trained on billions of pieces of text to predict words and phrases that should come next in a sequence. The result is a program you can “talk to” using regular, human language. Ask it questions, or give it instructions, and it will respond—often in ways that are remarkably useful.
7 ways ChatGPT can make your life easier
1. Plan your meals
This never ceases to blow my mind. Ask ChatGPT to give you recipe ideas, from a single recipe with certain ingredients, to a full, weeklong meal plan. Prompt it with your preferences (healthy, no fish, extra bagels, etc.), or ask it to draw ideas from a favorite recipe creator or blogger.2 Then, ask it to make you a grocery list with everything you’ll need.
2. Plan a trip (or staycation)
Ask ChatGPT to plan a customized trip for you, including day-by-day itineraries with suggestions for activities and food. I’ve also found this useful for brainstorming kid-friendly activities closer to home. Remember, you can always provide follow-up prompts and coaching to further tailor the responses (i.e., when I recently asked ChatGPT for a Miami weekend itinerary involving good Cuban food, it suggested Cuban restaurants for all 9 meals. I love ropa vieja as much as the next person, but that seemed like a bit much. I followed up asking ChatGPT for more varied suggestions).
3. Compose personalized bedtime stories
This one’s fun.
4. Summarize books
No time to read that parenting book everyone’s recommending because you’re too busy reading Techno Sapiens? ChatGPT is here for you. Be wary, of course, that this won’t always be 100% accurate, but it will often give you the gist.5
5. Write emails and letters
Remember, ChatGPT can write (a lot) more than just bedtime stories. Ask it to draft an email to your child’s school, a reference letter for a homeowner’s association, or any other basic (but annoying-to-write) document. My husband recently asked it to write a form letter related to our mortgage. You’ll likely end up editing these, but having a draft can save a fair amount of time.
Bonus: if using the ChatGPT app, you can dictate the basic contents of an email or letter, and simply have ChatGPT clean it up for you.
6. Brainstorm and answer questions (parenting or otherwise)
ChatGPT can serve as a (faster, often better) replacement for your typical Google search. Here are a few things my husband and I have asked it for recently: a list of children’s books for a toddler starting preschool, a comparison of different car models, a list of baby boy names, advice on babysitter compensation, and ideas for birthday gifts for each other.6
You can also ask it for advice on tricky parenting topics, or how to handle difficult situations at work or home. The response might not be perfect, but, at the very least, it may spark some new ideas.
7. Explain complicated topics
Perhaps you’ve recently become a homeowner or renter. Perhaps you’ve discovered that certain topics—the HVAC zoning system, the WiFi setup, the reason your hot water turns off every time it rains—are more complicated than you’d previously considered. ChatGPT can explain concepts at various degrees of complexity. Ask it to explain the issue to someone with little prior experience, or at an 8th grade reading level, or, if you’re really feeling lost, to a five-year-old. Also, unlike your HVAC repair guy, it will never tire of answering follow up questions.
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Note that ChatGPT saves user data (e.g., chat history) to further train its models, so I’d be careful about entering any highly personal or sensitive information.
I am, unfortunately, unaware of any ChatGPT plug-ins that will actually do the cooking for you. Speaking of, for those sapiens who’ve asked for air fryer updates: it is, as expected, changing my life. Made these 15-minute air fryer bagels this weekend with my toddler. They tasted fine, but more importantly, the combination of smooshing dough and pressing air fryer buttons entertained him for at least 10 minutes.
Quick tip: do not arrive at the Miami airport with a plan to “just wing it” on the rental car. You will wait in a very long line.
As might be obvious from the potty training ChatGPT prompt, this is currently underway in our house. People are stressed. People are crying. People are peeing on the floor. But I think we’re starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. Please keep us in your thoughts.