Testing artificial intelligence (AI) tools is a losing game. It is a machine, after all, and does not get tired. I do. Look at the Boston Dynamics Atlas robot pictured here and tell me that’s not “happy mode.” Built-in enthusiasm, high energy, and confidence to never stop going.

I need some of that robot energy to help me as I keep testing various prompts, concepts, parameters with the plan (and hope) to uncover techniques and tips that will help readers get more out of the tool and thus be more productive (built into that premise is as we are more productive it grants us more free time – I am not sure about that one, either). Onward and upward, this is still a ton of fun.

Over the past few weeks and months, across various AI platforms and in discussions with people far more expert than me. I have been compiling a list of key lessons and takeaways, but by the time I finish testing there could be a whole new generation of powerful tools that make this effort redundant.

Full disclosure: I am testing these platforms but I am not using the results in my writing here (that’s against the rules, for sure), not as a direct copy and paste, and I almost entirely try to do the research using topics and ideas that are unrelated to the post itself as you will see in today’s example of creating outlines with ChatGPT. Simplified screenshots, as in removing all of my back and forth with “Verby” (what I call ChatGPT now) to follow.

One of the great things about ChatGPT is it forces almost everyone to step back and reevaluate one’s own creativity, skill, methods, and output. Normally, I do not create an outline when I write, although I certainly learned how to do them in high school and college as a way to frame one’s thoughts and ideas and stay pointed in the right direction. Mostly, I free write (almost like free climbing without the death threat) and then an outline emerges. Sometimes.

Naturally, a quick search brought up some excellent results: “What’s the best way to outline an article?” and up pops one from Grammarly, one of the cool writing assistants that has been around for a while (and which I think is built into numerous writing platforms): How Outlining Is Essential to Your Writing. Grammarly has an excellent blog and approach to helping you improve, with and without their service.

So I popped their suggested outline into ChatGPT and asked it what it thought, here’s the screenshot and it gave them high marks with a couple of suggestions.

Then, as you will see, I asked it to condense it as you can see below. I clipped a portion of the ChatGPT conversation as there was a bit more back and forth. I could have also simply asked it for an outline on the topic of mindfulness.

In a similar vein, I took an old article of mine and asked it to “reverse engineer” my copy and to give me an outline of that article. I will not bore you with the back and forth, but it did a good job, of course, of breaking apart my long article. I asked it for an outline of my piece, a list of key takeaways in bullet point form, and a narrative summary. That was all in the prompt that looked like this (and yes, I always ask politely):

PROMPT: Please create a detailed outline from this text, then create a summary of key points, then a narrative summary of the full text (thank you): 2,083 words of TEXT Pasted

In my piece last week, I mentioned I have had luck with posting up to as much as 2,500 words and asking ChatGPT to dissect, rearrange, rewrite, and so forth. Anything over that, can prompt an error, at least that has been my experience. You can read that post here: ChatGPT Hack For Summarizing Your Work. Extra tip: When engaging with ChatGPT, if you get an error, and then another, just refresh your page.

Finally, my last method is the one I mentioned in my review-ish post about Otter.ai, and it is this — I record a ton of my ideas into my Easy Voice Recorder app (which I love and should review soon) and then upload those three to five minute one-sided MP3 audio “conversations” to Otter, which transcribes them.

That transcribed content goes directly into ChatGPT (for these tests and beyond) and I ask it to outline my thoughts, or summarize it, and so on. It is 100 percent me writing audibly and something I have been doing for years; it is just easier now with the apps and tools we have.

ChatGPT takes my content and operates as what I see as my assistant, my part time editor, to help me make sense of my own thoughts. Not sure that’s a true hack, but it does save me a ton of time (the Otter.ai part does). The back and forth with ChatGPT “Verby” takes more time thus my starting comment of being tired. Not truly tired, but aware that I will lose this game of wits and stamina as the Atlas Robot jumps with joy. Hopefully, the AI tools will figure out how to bottle that up, too.


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