How to Repurpose Your Work

Recycling Bag

Productivity is the art of producing what is needed in time enough to do what is wanted. There are always new things that you need to do, as well as new things that you want to do, so your productivity methods must be constantly adapting to new circumstances and new projects.

But there are other things you can adapt to new projects too. Work you’ve already done, for example.

In the past I’ve talked about the dangers of multitasking, but I have absolutely no qualms about multi-purposing. If you’ve done the work once, it doesn’t make sense that you’d do it again. Getting the same thing to work more than once is a nifty trick that pays off in a big way.

Think Ahead

Repurposing is an amazing tool, but work you have already done may, sometimes, be harder and more time-consuming to repurpose than simply starting from scratch. Most of the time, a seemingly repurposable piece of work won’t fit into a new project because when it was created, only the original project was in mind.

Most of the time it doesn’t take much to create a piece of work that can be reused—mostly it just takes some forethought. Before you start out to create something new, think for a short span of time about whether or not you’ll want to reuse it in the future. Below are some examples of things you’d want to make with repurposing in mind. Though your type of work may not be listed, there will still be tips inside that you’ll be able to apply to your next project.

Brochures, Marketing Copy, or Instruction Manuals

When you’re creating instructions or an identity of some sort, you’re going to do a lot of writing. If you’re planning a head, much of that writing can be reused in other contexts. When it comes to brand identity, reusing the same copy can even strengthen and reinforce the identity you’re trying to create. If you’re writing a set of instructions on how to use something to do a variety of tasks, there are probably parts of the instructions that can be repurposed (plugging the product in, turning it on, etc.).

However, sometimes when you’re writing you bury the bits you could repurpose in a bunch of project-specific prose. If you know ahead of time that you’re writing things you’ll want to use later, you can either keep the recyclables clear of the rest or you can write the recyclable bit, save it somewhere you’ll remember, and then customize it for the project at hand with appropriate transitions and such.

Computer Code

Building reusable code uses a lot of the same principles as writing reusable paragraphs. You need to create the first batch of code that can either be reused wholesale or that you can find-and-replace all the non-reusable bits out of. Most batches of code are going to need certain lines or calls that are going to be specific to each project, but if you think ahead you can, as with the writing, create and store an uncustomized version and then put in the customizable parts, or you can group the reusable parts together so they’re easy to extract.

Business Relationships

Creating strong relationships, business or not, takes an investment of time and consideration, so when you’re choosing which business contacts to cultivate, pick to the people who can, on their own or through their contacts, fill more than one need your business may have. Those needs may not be present right now, but you should forecast to future needs when you’re thinking about where to spend the time you have for networking and relationship building. Don’t got for the quick and easy way to get what you need right now if a little bit of extra time and thought could get you a business contact that can leverage resources and results for your future needs as well.

Stay Organized

Putting in the little bit of forethought won’t help you much if you can’t keep track of the things you have available for repurposing. If you don’t save your copies of your writing in a place you will remember, and in a way that will make it easy to find later, you’ll probably waste all the time you could have saved just trying to find your past work. Same goes for the reusable code. You’re less likely to lose a person, but you may lose track of the things he or she can help you with.

If you don’t have a system that would make it easy for you to find the things you set up for repurposing, put one in place. Then put in your work, do your time, and get on to the things you want to do.

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