One of the most powerful shifts I see people make in the way they work is breaking down their large projects or goals into smaller chunks, which I call “Intermediate Packets.”

I use the term “packet” because it reminds us that so much of our work today is digital, which means it is malleable and can easily be captured, edited, changed, adapted, and sent to anyone in the world through the Internet.

I use the term “intermediate” because it conveys that any piece of work – a slide, a paragraph, a diagram, a quote – can always become a component in a larger work. And not just one larger work, but multiple ones. 

  • If you design a slide that elegantly communicates a certain idea, why not keep it as a building block that can be reused in multiple slide decks in the future?
  • If you write a paragraph that powerfully argues a point, why not save that paragraph and incorporate it anytime you need to make that particular point?
  • If you create a diagram that effectively illustrates a trend in your industry, why not preserve that diagram so you always have evidence to support your assertions?
  • If you find a quote that speaks to one of your deeply held values, why not put it somewhere that you can refer to anytime you’re feeling down or discouraged?

And instead of finding a separate place for each of these kinds of content and many dozens of others, keep them all in your system of personal knowledge, which I call a “Second Brain.”

Below I’ve collected many examples of how this concept is applied in different creative media and different professions. It demonstrates that the principles of creativity are timeless – it is only the toolset and the medium that changes through the years.

  • “Module” in software development
  • “Taste test” in cooking
  • “Alpha” or “beta” in startups
  • “Sketches” in architecture
  • “Pilot” in television
  • “Prototypes” or “iron birds” in mechanical engineering
  • “Scaffolding” in IT development
  • “Pilot process” in manufacturing
  • “Scrimmages” in football
  • “Scenarios” in firefighting
  • “Concept car” in automobile design
  • “Demos” in music recording
  • “Sample” in baking
  • “First pass” in theatre lighting design
  • “Marking” in the performance arts
  • “Mock-ups” for websites
  • “Sitzprobe” for rehearsing an opera performance
  • “Comps” in graphic design
  • “Animatics” in storyboard animation
  • “Passes” in sculpting
  • “Manuscripts” for writing
  • “Franken-model” for hardware design
  • “Storyboard” in filmmaking
  • “Preprint” in academia
  • “Straw man” in proposal drafting
  • “Wireframe” in UI design

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