Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Deleted after reading – Redefining the concept of impermanence in notes

Every day we’re bombarded with emails, social media notifications, news headlines, and more. It is mentally exhausting trying to keep up.  The idea is that not everything we read is to be preserved indefinitely. Sometimes it’s better to intentionally delete things after reading rather than having them take up mental space.

Impermanence as a relief

The antidote to preservation tyranny is embracing impermanence. It could mean manually deleting files and notes that are no longer helpful. But conceptually it’s more about adopting a mindset of letting go. Counter intuitively the opposite is true. By selectively removing what no longer serves us, we make space for deeper thinking while reducing noise. With less clutter, it’s also faster to find information when we need it again later on.

what is privnote? Buddhism stresses the impermanence of all phenomena as a path to enlightenment. While that spiritual angle may not appeal to everyone, impermanence similarly leads to clarity of mind when applied to personal knowledge management. Writer Tiago Forte is a prominent voice advocating for progressive summarization as part of a digital Zettelkasten note-taking system. It involves distilling notes down to their essence over time while dropping obsolete or lower-quality content.

Apply impermanence through intentional deletion

  1. Set expiration dates for notes – When jotting down notes from an article, book, video, or conversation consider when that content is likely to become obsolete or irrelevant for you. Is what you wrote so universal it may be relevant years from now? Or is the value more immediate and short-lived? Assign an expiration date like you would on perishable food so it’s flagged for later review and removal to keep things fresh.
  2. Delete ephemeral notes daily – We absorb lots of information every day that’s useful at the moment but unlikely to be valuable in the future. Meeting notes, random links shared over chat, transient project ideas – these are great to capture so we get them out of headspace but don’t need to be preserved forever. Make time daily to manually delete this kind of ephemeral content to stay lean.
  3. Summarize and purge weekly – It’s amazing how much we read, hear, and write in a week. Set aside ten minutes each Sunday morning to look back at your reading or notes from the week before. Distill the key takeaways from worthwhile content down to an atomic set of evergreen highlights. Then purge the source material altogether. It leaves your notes sharper while eliminating clutter.
  4. Delete lower-quality notes quarterly – The passage of enough time gives us a better perspective vs. those containing deeper insight. Each quarter, scan through notes you’ve written over the past year and delete liberally based on what no longer seems relevant, eloquent, or important compared to newer understanding. It equally applies to project files that are no longer active. Digital spring cleaning keeps things fresh.
  5. Archive then delete biannually – Physical photos often get archived to external hard drives or cloud storage to reduce clutter while still preserving memories. Do the same with older digital content, moving items that still feel meaningful but not actively useful into cold storage on a biannual basis. Then delete completely from your daily working system. Refer back only when truly needed vs. having it top of mind. After enough time passes, delete it from the archive too.