I tried 4 popular AI productivity tools with mixed results

  • Many workers use OpenAI’s ChatGPT to make their jobs easier.
  • Labor experts agree that AI tools can make workers more productive.
  • Insider’s Aaron Mok tested 4 AI tools for a week to see if they can boost productivity. Here’s what he found.

AI tools like OpenAI’s ChatGPT have taken the world by storm — and workers are using them to make their jobs easier.

Many experts agree that AI tools can boost productivity, and people have already used ChatGPT and other AI tools to create articles, write code, and produce real estate listings in efforts to save time.

“It’s absolutely true that AI applications like ChatGPT can greatly improve the lives of workers,” Mark Muro, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who has researched the impact of AI on the workforce, told Insider.

We wanted to test some of these AI productivity tools.

At the same time I tested free versions of two AI tools — Grammarly and Notion.ai — and paid versions of two others — Brain.fm and Otter.ai — for a week to see if the tools would improve my writing speed and quality, and will improve I concentrate. Here’s what I found.

The AI ​​concept was supposed to make writing easier. He did not do it.

Notion.ai - Screenshot by Aaron Mok

Insider’s Aaron Mok used Notion AI to draft emails and generate story ideas.

Insider’s Aaron Mock.

I decided to try writing the Notion AI assistant — the latest feature of the task management platform — after learning that it can help workers generate ideas, summarize documents, and deliver copies. The results were mixed.

The tool was helpful in writing emails tailored to my needs. I asked the chatbot to “Write an email that can persuade a source to speak to me with empathy and compassion,” and it sent me an email that sounded professional and sensitive. But most of the emails he wrote were very formal and I would have to spend time processing them.

When I asked the AI ​​to generate a list of story ideas for a particular topic, they weren’t original or surprising, though they did give me some inspiration for possible angles to explore.

My main concern was how the tool produced misinformation: I asked the AI ​​to summarize the main points of an article about a particular company in bullet points — which it did — but two of the bullets misprovided the name of the company in question and the others were unclear. Checking the accuracy of the answer took more time than reading the article itself.

After further prompting, I was able to get Notion to generate emails, ideas, and article summaries with better results, although this required additional work.

Otter.ai attended virtual meetings on my behalf and exceeded my expectations

Some days are so busy that I don’t have time to attend important meetings, so I decided to try the voice-to-text transcription tool offered by Otter.ai, which could take notes for me.

The results were impressive. Otter.ai was quick to set up and transcribed everything that was said during the meeting in real time with relative accuracy. He condensed the main points into a few bullet points with timestamps, saving me from manually reading long transcripts. This feature was especially useful for summarizing notes from long, in-depth brainstorming sessions.

Grammarly is designed to improve the quality of writing, but it only distracts me

Grammarly - Screenshot Aaron Mok

Insider’s Aaron Mok used Grammarly to check spelling, correct grammar, and convey tone.

Insider’s Aaron Mock.

I tend to make mistakes when writing under tight deadlines, so I downloaded the AI ​​writing assistant Grammarly for a second pair of eyes. The browser extension makes suggestions about word choice and sentence structure, checks for plagiarism, generates reports, and grades essays.

While Grammarly was great at spotting spelling and punctuation errors, it produced a lot of distractions. Red lines underlined correctly spelled words, features like “tone information” appeared randomly, and sentence changes were constantly recommended — all of which disrupted the flow of the writing. It even slowed down my computer and froze my browser a few times.

Bottom line: It didn’t save me time and complicated the writing process.

Brain.fm offers AI-generated music to help focus. It worked.

Brain.fm Screenshot - Aaron Mok

Insider’s Aaron Mok used Brain.fm to boost focus and beat procrastination.

Insider’s Aaron Mock.

Focusing on a single task can be difficult, especially when working from home, so I decided to try Brain.fm, a tool that uses AI to create music designed for focus, relaxation and sleep.

It did not disappoint.

I chose a range of music options, including electronic and ambient — genres the company describes as ideal for “deep work — and it was just what my brain needed to quickly transition into a focused state of mind.

Brain.fm was especially helpful when I was unmotivated to complete selective tasks like answering emails. Unlike Spotify’s study playlists, Brain.fm’s music is designed to help users focus by a team of scientists and composers.

While some genres like “grooves” didn’t work for me, Brain.fm was easy to use and effective in giving me the boost I needed to bend and grind.

The takeaway? AI tools won’t do your job, but they can make it easier if you take the time to learn how to use them

After playing with these tools for a week, I realized that there is a learning curve.

As a worker who still writes to-do lists by hand, learning how to use the tools was a matter of trial and error. Figuring out how to tweak the prompts to get the best results and how to deal with glitches required extra time that I’d rather spend doing away with the more pressing tasks.

Making changes to your daily work routine is a skill that takes practice. I would probably find these tools more useful if I used them more, but I personally don’t have the patience to upend my work processes for the sake of automation.

Trying one or two tools at a time, getting comfortable with them, and then adding new ones for more advanced tasks may be your best bet. And as for me, a robot can’t do my job — at least not yet.

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