Here’s some advice from Entrepreneur magazine from a feature on improving productivity:
As entrepreneurs, we write many proposals, thank you notes, customer e-mails and press releases to various contacts. However, there is no need to write from scratch every time. While you don't want your correspondence to sound like a form letter, writing every letter from scratch is an enormous waste of time. Creating a template for every document that must be sent more than once opens up your schedule for other work. Just be sure to customize your template based on the contact to whom you are writing.
Where HBR gets it wrong
I dig most of the ideas, this one put a hitch in my giddyup, and not just because I’m a writer by trade and training. Here’s the problem with templates, y’all: it’s almost impossible to “customize your template based on the contact to whom you are writing” once you make a template, and especially if you’re busy in the first place. Why?
We’re lazy. Now before you workaholics accuse me of having my pants afire, listen up. Even us Puritan work-ethic devotees can fall prey to the siren song of the template and start dialing in our work. When any of us who’s busy finds a formula that works, we work that thing to death. And templates, like those inflatable water wings, give us a false sense of security. We can accomplish what we set out to do — write a news release or stay afloat — without expending a much effort at all. So why try to write “custom” additions to your boiler plate, or learn to swim, when you’ve got your handy device to rely on?
Another downside is the formula itself. Used more than about, say two times, it becomes obvious you’re using a boilerplate and just going through the motions, I mean filling in the blanks. It just doesn’t feel authentic and it produces boring-ass writing, to boot.*
A better way to improve productivity
Now, there are certain types of information that should go into everything we write, and there are ways to streamline the process of writing those things. But a template isn’t one of them. Our Content-Purpose-Audience strategy is. It achieves what you truly want: a well-written, thought-through, targeted memo, news release, etc., in a streamlined way. Check out the strategy in action (including examples and a cool worksheet) here. (The packet is about writing an opinion piece, but the C-P-A works for any type of document: letters, reports, slide decks, etc.)
So before you run off and build a template, try out the C-P-A. I think you’ll find it gives you a better product with the same amount of effort.
*Why take my word for it? Read this hilarious post by TJ Dietderich on the evils of templates. It may seem extreme, but as a reporter who gets a ton of releases each week, I can tell you it's actually scarily accurate.