As someone who is fond of studying time management, I am inclined to explore a new avenue of utilizing ChatGPT for enhancing my planning skills. Previously, I successfully utilized ChatGPT to augment my work-related writing tasks. However, I am keen to investigate if there is a possibility to harness the power of ChatGPT to elevate my planning skills. Of course, it is not my intention to allow ChatGPT to take over my planning. We do not wish to become mere followers of AI directives. Just as we do not use AI for generating copied content in our writing tasks, we also want to use it for a more profound purpose.

It is often observed that many individuals find it difficult to commence with the first step of “breaking down” their goals and actions into smaller, manageable parts. At times, their minds may seem to be blank or they may have vague ideas, but struggle to articulate any concrete plans or steps.

From a time management perspective, the design of goals and actions is undoubtedly a value judgement and choice made by humans (ourselves). However, the problem is, what if we get stuck at the first step of breaking down our goals and actions into smaller parts? This is often due to a lack of experience or the absence of habits of imagination.

Through extensive text training, ChatGPT, which can automatically generate content (even if it is often nonsense), is, to some extent, a combination of experience and imagination. It may help us overcome the first hurdle of breaking down our goals and actions. Once we have a basic draft of our goals and actions, we can more easily stimulate our own value judgement and choices.

Therefore, I have been testing the use of ChatGPT as an assistant in my own time management, project planning, and task breakdown processes. I have compiled five techniques for using ChatGPT to assist in goal planning. If you often struggle with planning, goal setting, and executing actions, this article may provide you with some guidance on using ChatGPT.

To make it easier to understand and apply for most people, I will use the example of “planning a trip to Hualien” to illustrate the breakdown of goal planning. However, I will extract some techniques that can be used for other goal planning and breakdown needs.

1. Complexity or simplicity hinder, better to ask layered questions

Indeed, questions that are too simple or too complex are not ideal. It is better to ask layered follow-up questions to get more precise and accurate responses from ChatGPT.

When asking questions to ChatGPT, it is important to be concise but precise. If the question is too simple, it may not yield a good answer. If the question is too complex, ChatGPT might generate irrelevant or nonsensical responses in an attempt to fulfill the criteria.

For example, I once asked ChatGPT a question like this:

“I want to plan a five-day, four-night trip to Hualien with my child to experience and explore nature. If there is a hiking trip involved, I hope it is a moderate level suitable for a five-year-old child. I prefer staying in hotels in the forested areas. I will be driving, but I don’t want the itinerary to be too tight, and I don’t want to spend too much time driving. Can you please help me plan a five-day, four-night itinerary that includes key attractions to visit each day, the unique features of each location, recommended restaurants for dining, and suggested hotels for overnight stays?”

Although the question seems specific and detailed, it can overwhelm ChatGPT and lead to incomplete or irrelevant responses. It is important to ask follow-up questions to get more precise and accurate results.

It is worth noting that ChatGPT is an AI content generator that appears to be thinking, but its thought process may simply be a product of its programming and experience, lacking a true scheduling and planning function. While we can use ChatGPT’s experience to stimulate our own scheduling and planning, it is not always advisable to rely too heavily on its suggestions.

Therefore, I believe it is better to start with a simple question, receive a basic answer, and then use that answer to inspire further thought. By asking layered questions after the initial response, we can often arrive at a better solution.

For example, one could begin by asking, “Can you help me plan a trip to Hualien?” After receiving a basic answer, we could then ask, “How can I adjust the itinerary to accommodate a family trip?” and then, “How can I add more nature experiences to the itinerary?” Finally, we could inquire about recommended accommodations.

2. First layer of inquiry: Establishing personnel, location, target, and process

For further refinement in the process of layered inquiry, there are additional techniques that can be employed.

When breaking down a project into achievable goals, we can start by asking ChatGPT for a basic target process from a goal-setting perspective.

By presenting a simple goal-setting question that includes the elements of personnel, location, and target, we can often obtain a more effective process framework suggestion from ChatGPT.

For instance, we can ask ChatGPT, “Please help me plan a 5-day-4-night family trip to Hualien where I can take my 5-year-old child to experience the natural beauty of Hualien. I will be driving there.”

The breakdown of this goal could include:

Personnel: Myself and my 5-year-old child
Location: Hualien
Target: Experiencing the natural beauty of Hualien
Time: 5 days and 4 nights
Equipment: Driving there

From this point, ChatGPT can provide a suggested itinerary (extracted from a two-day plan).

Asking such a question can often provide more concrete content suggestions than simply asking for “travel planning” or “planning a trip to Hualien,” and the question itself is not too complicated.

3. Second layer of inquiry: Stimulating problem awareness and asking for solutions

One of the most significant challenges in achieving a goal is the inability to effectively reach the target or progress with the plan. This is often because we overlook the “hidden problems and risks” in the basic process framework of the goal.

In such situations, we can also use ChatGPT to help us break down some of the possible problems and risks and stimulate us to find the potential issues.

Continuing with the previous question and answer, we can inquire with ChatGPT by asking, “What are the potential problems and risks that could arise for a family trip based on the itinerary suggested earlier?”

Sometimes, we may lack “problem awareness,” and this type of inquiry can help us think about the risks. However, not every problem needs to be solved. We should focus on the issues that we are most concerned about and are the most relevant to us.

Therefore, we can further inquire with ChatGPT about the solutions to our most concerning issues: “What are some suggestions to avoid a too-tight itinerary and ensure that the child can have a relaxed and comfortable trip?”

At this point, we begin to realize that one of the most critical factors in this goal is to have a comfortable itinerary for the child to enjoy the trip fully. We can then shift from a vague goal of planning a trip to a more targeted approach to problem-solving.

ChatGPT provided the following response:

By reaching the second layer of inquiry, we can use such answers to help us revise our goal more effectively and efficiently.

4. Third layer of inquiry: Asking for action steps to achieve the goal

With the assistance of ChatGPT, we have gradually clarified that what I want is a happy and relaxing family trip to Hualien’s great outdoors. Through this process, I have found that the key to a successful plan is to have a flexible itinerary and include some fun activities for the child.

However, setting a phased goal of “finding fun places for the child” is not enough. We must begin to take action to achieve this goal. The next step is to break down specific actions, which is where many people get stuck.

If you are having trouble breaking down the next steps, you can also ask ChatGPT for assistance. Continuing with the previous question and answer, my third layer of inquiry would be: “The previous suggestion is excellent. Can you help me turn it into a specific action list?”

ChatGPT provided me with the following action list (I have highlighted the specific action suggestions):

  • Some suggestions for specific actions include planning relatively relaxed activities such as shopping, flying kites, having picnics, and playing in the water at the beach, to ensure that the child has enough rest and entertainment time during the itinerary.
  • Allocate enough time for free activities such as playing in the lodging or hotel, exploring and discovering new things in the park or on the beach, to allow the child to have the freedom to explore.
  • Before each activity, inform the child of the upcoming activity and guide them to establish expectations and imagination. After the activity, ask for feedback and insights, which will encourage the child to participate more actively and voluntarily.
  • Of course, during the trip, it is essential to consider the child’s needs, take a break, and adjust the itinerary in a timely manner to avoid fatigue or over-excitement, which may result in emotional or behavioral issues.

Certainly, I can continue our previous discussion by addressing the various issues and outcomes of this trip and further “interrogate” ChatGPT for specific actionable recommendations. For instance, as it pertains to the aforementioned journey, a comprehensive checklist of pre-departure tasks could serve as a practical response that could practically be transcribed into a to-do list.

5. Techniques to avoid real-time information questions

ChatGPT does not actually schedule plans, the previous answer was generated based on its text experience and content imagination. This can often encounter obstacles such as “lack of up-to-date information” and “lack of correct information”. Two common problems are:

Many of ChatGPT’s answers are translations, so sometimes the answers may seem strange or incomprehensible due to direct translation from English.
Information-related questions can be better answered by using Bing News for inquiry: because ChatGPT does not have access to new online information, while Bing’s AI is mainly based on online search results.

At this point, in addition to asking questions in English, another way to approach the question is to avoid information-related issues.

By skipping the three layers of questioning above, we can ask a simple question instead: “How to plan a fun family trip with children?”

At this point, there is no location or time information required, but rather a clear “person and matter”, which often allows ChatGPT to provide us with more useful content for what we need next. The real information can be found by ourselves and may be more suitable.

For example, the answer below is for this question.

This answer gives me what information I can search for, how to make a real plan, what risks to pay attention to, and other entry points, based on which I can start to break down my own goals and have a clearer idea.

The point of this article is not that ChatGPT can directly complete planning and scheduling, but that we can use questioning to:

  • Stimulate imagination about the target process
  • Uncover problem awareness
  • Think of some possible steps that may have been overlooked
  • And make it easier for us to make value judgments and action choices using drafts