In part 1 of this series on creating Intermediate Packets (IPs), we talked about what an intermediate packet is and the main benefits of utilizing them in your life. After part 1, you might be confused about what makes this idea special. Isn't everyone creating past work they could use for future projects?
Admittedly most people are creating IPs, but because they don't follow the ancient laws (spooky I know) they can't utilize them effectively.
⚖️Disobeying The Ancient Laws of IP Utilization
If you don't have a systemized, easy-to-use, clear process for utilizing your IPs, they will fall through the cracks.
The average college student is a perfect example. College students work hard for their classes.
Cough cough. Ok. Most college students work hard for their classes. This hard work produces many valuable IPs over the course of four years.
Often, their work is turned in through the college's unique course platform. But this is the last place you want to keep your IPs. This is because it's separate from your own knowledge management system, organized in a manner you don't choose, and likely becomes inaccessible after the course is over.
Unfortunately, college students aren't an exception to IP misutilization. Most people create IPs using a strange mixture of apps, physical papers, organizational systems, and workflows, making it difficult to track what the heck is going on.
Clearly, people need rules to stick by.
🧑⚖️Rules of Effective IP Creation
- Treat your work as if creating IPs is all that matters.
This first rule can be summarized simply: Write Things Down.
Anything which isn't written down is transient. Your brain is not solely for storing ideas but also for having them. And you can’t leverage past work for creative insight if it doesn’t exist.
Unfortunately, Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment is not a good role model when he responded to a question on what he did for work by saying, "I think."
Thinking is great. But thinking without writing is mostly futile. Your IPs are the physical or digital embodiments of your time and thoughts. And unlike thoughts, they transcend individual projects. The effectiveness of your work becomes a measure of the quality and quantity of IPs you create.
- Systemize your IP utilization.
You need a workflow, a repeated process for collecting, organizing, and sharing ideas. You should save the same type of IP, in the same way, every single time.
Think of your IPs as shipping containers. Shipping containers revolutionized international trade by standardizing the loading and transporting process. Suddenly, international shipping exploded.
Standardization fosters creativity. Only when your mind knows it doesn't have to focus on organizing and remembering everything does it open up to solving creative problems.
This is where many people stumble: they might want to repurpose a past essay for a new article but can't remember if they saved it to Microsoft Word, Google Drive, Sparknotes, or god knows where.
Spend one hour thinking about how you organize and store information, and you have invested more time in the problem than 99.9% of people.
At the same time, however, your IP utilization system needs to be adaptable. Technology will change. You will change. If you can't learn to adapt alongside it, your IPs will fall through the cracks.
- Organize IPs by Project rather than topic.
Most people organize like a library. They put things into neat folders where they slowly build up and collect dust.
Instead, you should organize IPs by project. A project is simply something with more than one task and will take more than one work session to complete.
For example, while planning my traveling adventure to the Netherlands, London, and Sweden this summer, I organized my IPs on visa information, vaccine requirements, travel tickets, and other things under the associated project folder. I put my IPs where they were most actionable.
- Progressively summarize your IPs.
The average lifespan worldwide is around 73 years. Throughout this time, you will create a lot of IPs and most likely make many job transitions.
This means you have to create IPs with your future self in mind. They won't remember nearly as much about your life as you do now. They need a quick and easy way to understand an IP you might have created five years ago.
I do this through progressive summarization. Progressively summarization is a five-step process by which you slowly summarize information.
It's like creating clickbait for your future self. You want your IPs to scream at future you. Pick me! Pick me! I'm the best for the project at hand!
Progressively summarizing is the rule most people slip upon.
Everyone is creating IPs. Some people are even utilizing ones they recently made despite breaking some of the ancient rules. But without progressive summarization, IPs your past self-created ten years ago will never get utilized.
Thanks to Astrid Helfant, Ian Helfant, and Murray Helfant for the conversations which helped form this post.