Saving Work Hours with AI: How ChatGPT Became My Virtual Assistant for a Data Project

David Gewurtz/ZDNET
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There’s certainly been a lot of golly-wow, g-wise press about generative artificial intelligence (AI) over the past year. I’m definitely guilty of generating some of this myself. But tools like ChatGPT are also just that: tools. They can be used to support projects like any other productivity software.

Today, I’ll tell you about a quick project where ChatGPT saved me a few hours of work. While you don’t have to do the same project, I’ll share my thinking for prompts, to help inspire you to use ChatGPT as a workhorse tool for some of your projects. will

Also: 4 Generative AI Tools Your Enterprise Can Leverage to Boost Productivity

This is the only project I assigned to a human assistant, back when I had human assistants. I’m telling you this fact because I structured the assignments for ChatGPT the same way I would have someone working for me when I was in a cubicle as a manager of a large corporation. was sitting


In a month or so, I’ll post what I like to call a “stunt article.” Stunt articles are projects that I come up with that are fun and that I know readers will be interested in. The article I’m working on summarizes how much computer gear I can buy from Timo for under $100 total. I came in at $99.77. Stay tuned, the article will be fun.

Putting this article together involved spending time on the Timo site, digging around, and looking for items to spotlight. For example, I got an iPad keyboard and mouse for about six bucks.

Also: Is Timo legit? What to know before ordering

In order to stay under my $100 budget, I wanted to get all the team links into a spreadsheet, find the cost of each one, and then move things around until I had that full budget. Can’t find what I want to spend.

The challenge was to turn TeamLinks into something useful. That’s where I used ChatGPT.

Step 1: Collect links

First I collected all my links. For each product, I copied the link from Timo and pasted it into a concept page. When pasting URLs, Notion gives you the option to create bookmark blocks that contain not only links but also product names. Here is a snapshot of that page:

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

As you can see, I have started selecting the blocks. Once you have selected all the blocks, you can copy them. I just pasted the whole set into a text editor which is normally set to dark mode. When pasted into a text editor, blocks look like this:

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

The page looks ugly, but the result is useful.

Step 2: Identify the data

Let’s take a look at one of the data blocks. I’ve put my editor out of dark mode so it’s easier for you to see the data elements in the block:

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

There are three main elements. Gold text shows the product name and is surrounded by braces. The green text is the product’s base URL and is surrounded by parentheses. There is a question mark that separates the main page URL from all random tracking data sent to the Teamo page. I just wanted the main URL. The purple areas highlight the boundaries and that’s the data we’re going to feed into ChatGPT.

Step 3: Teach ChatGPT to recognize data

I first fed ChatGPT this prompt:

Accept the following data and wait for further instructions.

Then I copied all the information from the text editor and pasted it into ChatGPT. At that point, ChatGPT knew to wait for more details.

The next step is where the meat of the project happened. I wanted ChatGPT to remove the headers and links, and leave the rest behind. Here is that hint:

The above data consists of a series of blocks of data. At the beginning of each block there is a section inside. [] bracket. For each block, designate it as a title.

Following [] A bracket is an open parenthesis (followed by the web URL). For each block, extract that URL, but discard everything after the question mark, and also discard the question mark. Most URLs will then end in .html. We will designate this as URL.

For each block, display the TITLE followed by a carriage return, followed by the URL, followed by two newlines.

This process did two things. This allowed me to name the data, so I could refer to it later. This process also allowed me to test whether ChatGPT understood the assignment.

Also: How to use ChatGPT

ChatGPT executed the assignment correctly but stopped about two-thirds of the way through when its buffer ran out. I told the bot to continue and got the rest of the data.

Doing this process by hand would have been a deeply tedious process and involved many cut and paste operations. ChatGPT worked in just a few moments.

Step 4: Clearing Timo’s most complex topics

For my project, Timo has too many topics. instead of:

10 Inch LCD Writing Tablet, Electronics Memo with Leather Protective Case, Electronic Drawing Board for Digital Handwriting Pad Doodle Board, Gift

I wanted something else like:

LCD writing tablet with case.

I also gave this assignment to ChatGPT. I reminded the tool that it had previously parsed and identified the data. I find that reminding ChatGPT about the previous step helps to add this step more reliably to later steps. Then I asked him to give me the title. Here is that hint:

You have just created a list with TITLE and URL. do you remember? For the items above, please summarize the TITLE items in 4-6 words. Capitalize only the appropriate words and the first word. Give it back to me on the pill list.

I got back a list like this, but for all 26 items:

  • LCD writing tablet with case.
  • 360 degree rotating tablet stand
  • 1080p video capture device
  • USB 3.0 HDMI Capture Card
  • Advanced sound cards for professionals
  • USB 3.0 expansion card

Step 5: Create a list with links

My goal was to take this list, with clickable links, and paste it into Excel, so I could use column math to add and remove items until I reached my $100 budget. I wanted to be able to click the names in the spreadsheet because it would be much easier to manage and jump back and forth between Timo and my project spreadsheet.

So, my last chat GPT task was to convert the list above into a set of clickable links. Again, I started by reminding her of the work to be done tool. Then I asked him to make a list with links:

Do you see the bulleted list you just created? This is a list of summary topics.

Well, recreate the same list, but change each summary title to a live web link with its corresponding URL.

And he was. I got all the links I needed and ChatGPT did all the grunt work. I pasted the results into my spreadsheet, selected the products, and placed the order.

Also: 6 Ways ChatGPT Can Make Your Everyday Life Easier

This is the final spreadsheet. There were other products when I started this process, but I added and removed them from the rest of the column until I got the budget I was aiming for:

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

Advantages of ChatGPT as a Tool

It was a project I could do myself. But that would require a ton of cutting and pasting and a fair amount of extra thinking to summarize all the product titles. It must have taken me two or three hours of grueling work and probably added to my wrist pain.

But by thinking of this task as an assigned assignment, the entire ChatGPT experience took me less than 10 minutes. Maybe it took me less time to use ChatGPT to do all the fuss. And Writing this article is much longer than it would have taken me to cut, paste, and summarize it all.

Also: Thanks to my 5 favorite AI tools, I’m working better now.

That kind of project isn’t cute and it’s not sexy. But it’s useful, saving me a few hours of work I find painful and unpleasant. Consider using ChatGPT the next time you have a data parsing project.

Oh, and stay tuned. As soon as Timo sends me his stuff, I’ll post a detailed article on how much tech gear you can get for under $100. It will be fun. See you there.

You can follow my daily project updates on social media. Be sure to subscribe to my weekly update newsletter, and follow me on Twitter/X @DavidGewirtzon Facebook at, on Instagram at, and on YouTube at

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