I tried 4 popular AI productivity tools with mixed results

  • Many employees 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 could increase 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 increase productivity, and people have already used ChatGPT and other AI tools to generate articles, write code, and create real estate listings to save time.

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

We wanted to put some of these AI productivity tools to the test.

I simultaneously 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 improved the speed and quality of my writing would improve and improve focus. Here’s what I found.

Notion AI should make writing easier. It has not.

Notion.ai - Screenshot by Aaron Mok

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

Insider’s Aaron Mok.

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

The tool was helpful in composing emails tailored to my needs. For example, I asked the chatbot to “write an email that can convince a source to speak to me with empathy and compassion,” and it spat out an email that sounded professional and sensitive. But most of the emails it wrote were way too formal, and I had to take my time to process them.

When I asked the AI ​​to come up with a list of story ideas on a given topic, they weren’t original or surprising, although they gave me some inspiration for possible angles to explore.

My main concern was how the tool was generating 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 bullet points misrepresented the name of the company in question and the rest were vague . Checking the answer for accuracy 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 it 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, which is why I decided to try the voice-to-text transcription tool offered by Otter.ai, which can take notes for me.

The results were impressive. Otter.ai was quickly able to set up and transcribe everything said during the meeting in real-time with relative accuracy. It condensed the key points into a few bullet points with timestamps and saves me reading long transcripts by hand. This feature was particularly useful for summarizing notes from long, detailed brainstorming sessions.

Grammar is supposed to improve the quality of writing but it just distracted me

Grammar - Screenshot by Aaron Mok

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

Insider’s Aaron Mok.

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

While Grammarly was great at spotting spelling and punctuation errors, it led to a lot of distractions. Correctly spelled words were underlined with red lines, features like “Tone Insights” popped up randomly, and sentence changes were constantly recommended – all of which disrupted the flow of writing. It even slowed down my computer and froze my browser a few times.

Conclusion: It didn’t save me any time and made the writing process more difficult.

Brain.fm features AI generated music to help with focus. It worked.

Brain.fm screenshot - Aaron Mok

Insider’s Aaron Mok used Brain.fm to improve focus and avoid procrastination.

Insider’s Aaron Mok.

It can be difficult to focus on a single task, especially when working from home, so I decided to try Brain.fm, a tool that uses AI to generate music to help you focus, relax, and sleep.

It didn’t disappoint.

I selected a range of musical options such as electronic and atmospheric – genres the company describes as ideal for “deep work” – and it was just what my brain needed to quickly shift into a focused state of mind.

Brain.fm was especially helpful when I lacked the motivation to do routine tasks like replying to emails. Unlike Spotify’s study playlists, Brain.fm’s music was developed by a team of scientists and composers to help users focus.

While some genres like “Grooves” didn’t work for me, Brain.fm was easy to use and effectively gave me the boost I needed to buckle up and grind.

take that away? AI tools won’t get your job done, but they can make it easier if you spend time learning how to use them

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

As a worker who still writes to-do lists by hand, learning to use the tools was a matter of trial and error. Figuring out how to tweak prompts for the best results and how to troubleshoot glitches required extra time that I would have preferred to spend on more pressing tasks.

Making changes in the workplace is a skill that takes practice. I probably would have found these tools more useful had I used them longer, but personally I don’t have the patience to turn my work processes upside down in favor of automation.

Try out one or two tools at a time, become familiar with them, and then add new ones for more advanced tasks. And as far as I’m concerned, a robot can’t do my job – at least not yet.

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