The Fine Balance between Short-Term & Long-Term Planning: Preserving Context in Digital Writing


Hatched by Glasp

Aug 29, 2023

4 min read


The Fine Balance between Short-Term & Long-Term Planning: Preserving Context in Digital Writing

When it comes to planning, there are two distinct realms to consider: finite time and infinite time. The former refers to the time within our control, where we can make short-term plans and decisions. On the other hand, infinite time encompasses externalities and events that are beyond our control. It is within this infinite time that the potential for remarkable outcomes lies.

To illustrate the power of infinite time, we can turn to the famous infinite monkey theorem. This theorem suggests that if a group of monkeys were to type randomly on a keyboard for an eternity, they would eventually produce the complete works of Shakespeare. It demonstrates that given enough time, possibility, probability, and predictability gradually converge.

So, how can we leverage this concept of infinite time in our planning and decision-making? One way is through the barbell approach to risk management, popularized by economist Nassim Nicholas Taleb. This approach involves taking on two extreme positions – one with a low level of risk and one with a high level of risk – instead of settling for a moderate position with a medium level of risk.

By adopting this barbell approach, we strike a balance between short-term planning and long-term optionality. In the near term, our focus should be on offense, optimizing our actions and decisions for finite time. We should strive to become "dangerous" in our chosen fields as quickly as possible. This entails taking calculated risks and pushing our boundaries.

On the other hand, in the long term, it is crucial to be on defense. We should use the abundance of infinite time to prepare ourselves for the unknown. By embracing a small amount of extreme risk, we maximize our potential for gain while minimizing the potential for loss. This dual approach allows us to navigate the fine balance between short-term and long-term planning effectively.

In the realm of digital writing, preserving context becomes essential. We aim to create bi-directional linkages between various products, including the original source material, stand-alone notes, and our own documents intended for sharing. We want these sources to hold value beyond a single project, enabling us to revisit and build upon them over time.

To achieve this, we leverage digital tools and information sources. Context plays a significant role in this process. Highlighting and annotating within the context of the original sources allows us to create smart notes – ideas that are understandable on their own. These smart notes serve as valuable resources for future writing projects.

As we move through the writing process, the reliance on the context of previous sources diminishes. We begin to focus more on our own interpretation and speculation. Accumulating annotated PDFs and other products over time provides a sense of security, knowing that we have a wealth of resources at our disposal. Utilizing tools like iCloud, Zotero, or Highlights further enhances this sense of security and organization.

Markdown text files offer a core benefit in digital writing – they do not age out of usefulness. Both Zotero and Highlights embed information about the location of highlights and notes within the original document. When exporting these notes to platforms like Obsidian, the corresponding links allow us to easily refer back to the original text. This seamless integration ensures that our writing remains connected to its foundational sources.

In conclusion, finding the balance between short-term and long-term planning is crucial for success in various aspects of life. By prioritizing offense in the near term and defense in the long term, we can maximize our potential while mitigating risks. In the realm of digital writing, preserving context through smart notes and efficient organization enhances productivity and the longevity of our work.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Embrace the barbell approach to risk management in your decision-making process. Take calculated risks to become "dangerous" quickly, while also preparing for the unknown in the long term.
  • 2. Utilize digital tools and information sources to preserve context in your writing. Highlight and annotate within the original sources to create smart notes that hold value beyond a single project.
  • 3. Consider using markdown text files and tools like iCloud, Zotero, or Highlights to ensure that your writing remains connected to its foundational sources. This will allow for seamless referencing and enhance the longevity of your work.

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