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I changed these 5 ChatGPT settings for an instant productivity boost (and how they work)

Custom instructions for ChatGPT

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

There’s no denying that ChatGPT is an extremely powerful tool that can help you with many different tasks. However, using the chatbot can present challenges, such as extensive prompts and privacy concerns. Fortunately, a few quick and easy settings can help solve these problems.

To get the most out of OpenAI’s chatbot, all you need to do is adjust a few settings. While toggling these settings will only take a few moments, it will completely improve your experience. Don’t believe me? Try it yourself by adjusting the ChatGPT settings below.

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Before we get started, either log in to your existing OpenAI account or create a new one. Although you can access ChatGPT without an account, you will need to log in to access the settings. Once you’ve customized your settings, they will be saved to your account and automatically enabled for your subsequent ChatGPT sessions.

Now let’s get to the fun part.

1. Custom instructions

Custom instructions for ChatGPT

Screenshot by Sabrina Ortiz/ZDNET

This setting is probably the most time-saving. Custom instructions allow you to enter instructions that ChatGPT should follow each time it generates a response for you. This way, you don’t have to type those instructions every time you enter a prompt.

For example, if you are a teacher or parent and want all generated material to be tailored to the children’s ages, you can use custom instructions. In this scenario, you could say, “I am a third grade teacher and will be using ChatGPT to help me create back-to-school content. I want you to use third grade level vocabulary and keep your tone engaging and upbeat.” Then every subsequent response would follow that criteria.

How to: Click on your profile picture in the top right corner and then click “Customize ChatGPT.” You will see a pop-up window with two text boxes asking “What would you like ChatGPT to know about you to give better answers?” and “How would you like ChatGPT to answer?” as shown in the image above. If you need inspiration for the instructions, click on the text box and bullet points with “food for thought” will appear.

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After you’ve entered your instructions, make sure the switch next to “Enable for new chats” is turned on so it will be used for every prompt in the future. You can turn the setting off again if you want ChatGPT to ignore the instructions for a specific response.

2. Storage

Storage function in ChatGPT

Screenshot by Sabrina Ortiz/ZDNET

Like custom instructions, Memory allows users to avoid having to repeat themselves every time they use the chatbot, allowing them to enjoy a more tailored experience. With Memory, the chatbot remembers any insights provided by the user that might prove useful when formulating subsequent responses.

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For example, if I mention in a prompt that I have a Yorkie named Jimmy, and the memory feature is enabled, ChatGPT would use that information as context when generating an appropriate response in the future. So if I say “What food should I feed my pet?” in a later prompt, it would remember that my pet is a Yorkie and make appropriate recommendations.

How to: Click on your profile picture in the top right > Settings > Personalization > Reminder and toggle it on or off. You can also click the Manage setting to delete any reminders stored in it that you don’t want to use in the future or that you don’t want saved.

3. Temporary chat

ChatGPT Temporary Chat

Screenshot by Sabrina Ortiz/ZDNET

One of the biggest concerns users have about ChatGPT is whether their data will remain private and secure. This concern is heightened because generative AI models like ChatGPT use user input to further train their models. Temporary Chat provides a quick and easy way to ensure your conversation remains private.

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When temporary chat is enabled, your chats will not be used to create reminders, train models, or appear in history. Note: OpenAI notes that even with temporary chat enabled, copies of chats may be retained for up to 30 days for security reasons.

How to: To do this, simply click on the drop-down menu in the upper right corner that says “ChatGPT” and enable the “Temporary Chat” option.

4. Improve the model for all

Improve the model for all screenshot ChatGPT

Screenshot by Sabrina Ortiz/ZDNET

Staying on the topic of privacy and security, if you don’t want any of your chats to be used to further train the model, you can disable the “Improve model for everyone” setting. This is especially important because the feature is enabled by default.

How to: To turn it off, click on your profile picture in the top right > Settings > Data Controls > Model Enhancement and toggle it on or off.

5. Topic

Screenshot of the ChatGPT theme

Screenshot by Sabrina Ortiz/ZDNET

While it may not seem that important, having your ChatGPT interface in a light or dark theme can significantly improve your experience. For example, I always tend to use dark mode on all my devices because it is easier on my eyes. For this reason, as you can see in my screenshots above, I also opted for a dark theme on ChatGPT.

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How to: Personalizing this setting is easy because once you enter the settings page, you will find the “Theme” dropdown menu at the top of the popup. Once you click on the dropdown menu, you can choose between “System”, “Light” and “Dark”.

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