Let me let you in on a little secret: Good students complete every assignment they’re given from scratch; Great students recycle previous work for current assignments. How can this be, you say? It’s because great students take previous ideas, continue to refine them, and make them better over time. They also save themselves quite a bit of time and labor, which is another way of saying they’re more productive than most other students.
While I was in graduate school I developed an interest in online privacy. What started out as a presentation on online privacy and your company, became a paper on online privacy and P3P, and finally manifested itself as yet another paper on a global perspective on online privacy. It wasn’t that I turned in the same paper three times, I continued to dig deeper for each assignment, which led me to a much deeper understanding of my chosen subject.
Why should this practice stop once you’re out of school? Why can’t we apply the same lesson to our professional assignments? Dawn Foster recently posted an article on GigaOM advocating for this practice at work. She argues that you can save a lot of time while providing higher quality work and answers by reusing and recycling your work.
I heartily agree. Every email doesn’t demand a unique answer. Parts of that well-received report can be reused in subsequent reports. Processes that are well-documented will lead to more consistent service delivery.
So why do we feel bad when we take advantage of the copy-and-paste function? Why don’t we use it more to be more productive and deliver better work? Are you ready to start?
UPDATE: Read an interesting article that attempts to answer the question “What’s Wrong With Students Reusing Papers?” The answer they’re searching for: Nothing.