⌚Intermediate Packets 1: Making Your Past Self Work For You

⌚Intermediate Packets 1: Making Your Past Self Work For You
Photo by Shawn Lee / Unsplash

Have you ever started a new project invigorated and excited, only to sit down with a blank page having no idea what to do next?

It’s frustrating.

I felt this way for most of my life. Then I learned how to repurpose my past self’s work for my future self. Now, I never start from scratch. I begin most projects at 80% completion without even realizing it. I create more in 2 months than I used to in 2 years.

The secret is through utilizing Intermediate Packets (IPs). In this three-part series on IPs, you will learn what an IP is, why they are so powerful, and how you can start leveraging them in your life.

📦What is an intermediate packet?

An “Intermediate Packet” is called so because of the internet. On the internet, information must be compressed to allow it to fit into a tiny tube. This makes its parts small enough to travel the net and exit somewhere else where it’s uncompressed into its original form.

IPs work in the same way. They are the most actionable and useful parts of past work compressed into building blocks that can be reassembled for future projects. They can be practically anything.

Here are some examples:

  • A text message to your friend with your best tips for starting a yoga routine.
  • A compiled list of tips on how to ask for a raise from your boss.
  • A brag sheet for a course you’re creating using all the positive feedback you have ever received from past students.

Here are some examples of my IPs:

  • My course, Building a Reading Habit, is a culmination of annotated notes on articles, videos, texts, emails, book highlights, and other things in my Second Brain.
  • My written book summaries are the foundation of many of my YouTube videos, blog posts, and newsletters.
  • A list of all the nut butters with my personal taste ratings. Because, it will help people… Choose which one to eat. I’m normal?

Clearly, IPs can be almost anything. But I want you to broaden it even further. They can be as large as a full-fledged course to as small as a single sentence journal entry.

But the definition of an IP is irrelevant to understanding the concept. The essential realization you must have is to see your past work as the building blocks for future projects.

💸The Seven Major Benefits

Utilizing IPs has more advantages than simply saving time. Here are the seven major ones:

  1. You reduce procrastination because you rarely have to load an entire project in your head at once. Everything is a work in progress. Since nothing is ever final, there is no need to wait to get started. You can create your website now and slowly add additions to it over time. You can start the book you always meant to now and fill in research holes later.
  2. You can transcend job changes. Knowledge work is becoming more remote. Most people no longer do their work with the same people all of their lives. We also no longer work at the same time. Increasingly our IPs are the only thing tying our work together between jobs.
  3. You become more adaptable. Your projects start to have clear start and stop breakpoints by splitting them into individual IPs. These breaks give you time to rest and reflect on where you are going.
  4. You can create value in any period. Ask yourself, “with my time, mood, and energy right now, what is the most valuable IP I can create?” Even five minutes a day adds up over a few years.
  5. You think bottom-up instead of top-down. Instead of thinking top-down, asking “what projects need to get done?” you can think bottom-up by looking at your IPs and asking, “what projects am I already 80% done with?” In this process, everything becomes connected. Suddenly, you realize sleep tips you learned at work from your coworker and wrote down can help your dad get better rest. A lesson from a podcast on Stoicism will help you deal with a family argument.
  6. You prepare yourself for inflection points. IPs prepare you for the cliche “once in a lifetime opportunities.” You must be ready before they come. I was once given a few days to structure and plan out a whole course while applying for my dream job as a course content writer under Ali Abdal. I planned a course on how to write a comprehensive book summary. All I had to do was tap back into my IPs on course creation, my previously written down course ideas and my past writings on how to summarize books. It took me three hours. I struggle to measure the value of these three hours.
  7. Your IPs become gifts. A family member is looking for the best restaurants in a city, and you share your starred restaurants in the city with Google maps. Your nephew is looking for a health podcast to listen to, and you share your IPs on the best health podcasts of the year. Soon, your generosity pays back, and other people give you their IPs. You create a serendipity vehicle by crafting your own luck and becoming a magnet to future people and opportunities you never knew existed.

Imagine if all people in the world created and utilized Intermediate Packets effectively. Social media would become a platform for creativity and learning instead of controversy and gossip. Everyone could immerse themselves in a field they love and distill complicated information into project building blocks for others’ benefit. Instead of a culture in which everyone reads the same few best-selling books, we could diversify our reading into the niches and subcultures that rarely see the light of day but hold world alerting insights.

It all comes with utilizing your IPs.

Check out part 2 of this series to learn about the rules of creating effective IPs.

Thanks to Astrid Helfant, Ian Helfant, and Murray Helfant for the conversations which helped form this post.