Create Custom Automations with AI

How I Created 3 Awesome Automations with AI

The ChatGPT Tech Support Advisor Custom GPT is stellar. Because it can write the code for you and also because I have specific things about my own personal setup that shouldn't be shared for protective reasons, I've summarized what I've done with it.

⚠️A Caveat: Be warned that you can mess up your computer if you don't somewhat understand tech-speak and how your computer works. But if you're pretty good with computers, conversing with AI can no only help you automate, but perhaps can be a business for many who have the knowledge to use AI but also the ability to communicate with people to help them troubleshoot their problems.

How I Organize

First, I'm a very visual person. I don't recommend this approach for everyone, but for me, it works. While I keep everything digital for next week and after in terms of calendars and tasks, part of being productive is taking things out of the digital world and putting them into my physical space so the tasks become real and consequently, get done!

Second, I have file names for everything. Using a system somewhat based from Building Your Second Brain by Tiago Forte, I have four folders in my Finder. These same four folders and project names are also in Google Drive, Evernote, and Todoist, my task management system. I number projects and have a system for them and I want that system to be consistent across them. (Additionally, I use these project numbers on my dashboard on my Streamdeck, but that's for another post. Basically when I click a button on my Streamdeck XL, it will open up everything for me.)

So, my four folders are the PATH format (Tiago FORTE's is slightly different, but this works for me.)

I highly recommend the Building Your Second Brain approach as my projects folder is just my current projects. I have a system where these projects move to other places if they aren't active. The whole system is built on filing things where they are used and it is a massive time savers.

The four main folders I use everywhere in my organizational system.

So, understandably, I want to know my current projects list. It can change on my somewhat often.

How I Started the AI Conversation

So, I began with my question for automation, and I learned so much about things I didn't know I could do! This is fantastic. And I want to remind all of us something I teach students. Working effectively with AI is not just about a good prompt, you can start with an imperfect prompt, for sure, but it is about engaging in a conversation until you get what you need out of the conversation.

My prompt embarking on this automation.

3 Automations for My Weekly Planning and How They Work

So, before I hit my limit for my GPT-4 plus account (yes, there is a limit), here's what I did along with the Tech Support Advisor Help:

  • Print a Weekly List of Files. I wrote an AppleScript that I used Automator to turn into an application on my Mac. Then, I went into the Calendar app and set up an event. (Even though I use Fantastical, this is still ok.) AppleScript grabs all of the file names in the three active folders- everything but the History folder- and then puts them into a text file. Then, it prints the text file to my printer. Since my project numbers are part of my filenames, I have a cool list of current projects. I did not know that you could set an alert to open a file at a certain time. This is awesome! So, when I have a meeting, I can write a script for certain things to happen. Since I use Keyboard Maestro, this gives me further amazing automation. (I need to write about that more later, also.)
  • Print a Weekly List of My Agenda for the Week. Next, this approach was a tad different as it is challenging to link AppleScript with calendars. So, I prefer and use Fantastical. So, I wrote down the hotkeys (those keys you press that make something happen. They are printed in gray to the right of the command) that it would take to open the current week and then print that week's schedule. It had to have two returns because it goes to continue and then it goes to Print. However, this works also. I set this to run just after the file and active project list. Again, I made the script and then tested it. Then, I made the application with Automator. Then, I scheduled the calendar event to open the application each Monday.
  • Print My To Do List. While I keep a paper planner, there's something for me about having a list. I'm testing this one and may abandon it. This was a tad trickier. I use Todoist, and while there's an app, there's no print function for the Mac. So, for this script, I wrote this to open up Chrome, then go to the URL for today's activities, and then the hotkeys for printing, and then Enter to make it print. This I'm printing daily for now. Again, I made the script. Then, I put the script into Automator and saved it as an app, and then, I scheduled the calendar event.

How AI Helped With This Task

This is a great example of how AI and a human who understands computational thinking and some basic programming can work together to create a powerful workflow that will help me focus.

Programmers who do this daily would call this “citizen programming” and would likely frown upon what I'm doing. But even they would have to acknowledge that having AI draft the simple code for this would be faster than they could write it by hand. Citizen programming, where people write code and use the code in languages they don't know, are part of the future of programming. Increasingly IT Departments will be called upon to audit and supervise the creation of such code. Companies (and schools) will need ways to submit code written for tasks to have it approved, as people will also be able to write full apps in this way at some point in the future.

To access a Custom GPT, you need to have the GPT Plus account. Then, you go to Explore and pick the custom GPT called “Tech Support Advisor.” I predict that most companies will have this sort of tech support in the future. I know I couldn't have done this without this type of support.

Caveats and Challenges with This Approach

Here are some things I learned and caveats:

  • When I was having a problem, I kept pasting in the error message. Ultimately I figured out I didn't quite have my username accurate on the Mac, so I had to know how to go in and find my username without spaces. In this example, knowing what a username is and where to find it was helpful. I did need to know the file paths for my folders I wanted but I just stated the path and it actually wrote the full path for me.
  • When apps change, if they change their hotkeys or if they change the number of times you press enter, it could break the code.
  • My mac has to be on for this to run. I think it has to be awake also. This will be something I'll test Monday since I use a Macbook pro and then hook it up to multiple monitors.

As you work on your workflow, think about the tasks you're doing that could be automated and test out AI to help you create the automation. That said, if you're total beginner, this might not be for you.

As for me, this is awesome. I hope this gives you some ideas for what you can do with your own workflow.

My setup is strategically designed for workflow. There are many things I could share with you about this setup that I will plan to document and share. In the end, though, tools can help me be more productive, but it is a decision to get the work done that is part of being productive. There is a gap between knowing what to do and doing it! So, a great setup is wonderful but is just a start!

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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The Cool Cat Teacher Blog
Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere