Stay open to the Hints of the Universe

Productivity shouldn't be hard
Free flow of information
The modern world is full of uncertainty and requires a knowledge system to maintain confidence and receptivity. Anyone who has even tried meditation quickly realizes how little a single session can give within the context of a long journey. Single meditations are exercised with great resistance. We are constantly lacking focus and attention, and new distractions are constantly emerging. However, over time, we’re experiencing the cumulative effect of our work, and we’re starting to notice as small changes become a part of everyday life. We’re starting to take a broader view and notice the hints of the universe.

The same happens with any information we get. We need to be sensitive to even the smallest changes in the world around us. Each of these signals is a sign — a clue — a hint from the universe to find the balance.

We must hear these signals and deal with them properly. Individually, they are just small facts — a piece of knowledge about the world around us — closely related to our unique experience, but connected, they form a whole worldview. When a person remembers an answer to a hint, the world exponentially increases the repeat interval of this hint, showing it more often. These increasing intervals allow storing a collection of thousands of hints, using only a few dozen each day. New information can be very different from the previous one. We do not see the connections, we do not understand the relationships, and we do not distinguish the value of a given hint. The complex knowledge system begins to assemble over a long period of time, when seemingly unrelated events begin to intersect — establishing new meanings. We receive these hints usually when we’re least prepared — when we’re on the road or waiting in line. That is why it is important for us to be open to new experiences.

Taking notes is not enough. The less attention is paid to the clue, the less it will be remembered the next day. We are surprisingly careless with information we receive. We don’t take notes and we rarely try to reconsider our experience. Furthermore, we can’t write in a language we don’t understand. It’s very difficult to correctly formulate the clues and not to limit the context beforehand. This allows information to mature and unfold into a full-fledged idea.

With the abundance of information that falls on us, essential things are soon forgotten or they become difficult to distinguish. Usually, the system that we have at our disposal is not flexible enough for the scattered flow of incoming information.

Messengers have their own laws of information flow, corporate mail — the others, there is no general protocol to synchronize them. Context switching may seem to be a cognitive benefit, but it creates problems at work because we’re rarely able to go deep in such a setting. Even if we spend a couple of weekends creating a complex [[zettelkasten]] notes structure, its complexity is likely to be enormous, and in the long run, everything will collapse.

Even if the information continues to be collected, we will quickly realize that without revision, without regular procedures of refactoring the hints we’ve got, we are not benefiting from them at all.

Overcomplexity of personal knowledge systems

In the sphere of personal knowledge management (PKM), this information retention principle is known as [spaced repetition]: when we return to our notes with a definite, constantly decreasing frequency. There is a whole range of practices, such as the open-source flashcard program ANKI to support spaced repetition. Similar flashcards are integrated into many modern PKM solutions.
Source: The Spacing Effect: How to Improve Learning and Maximize Retention / Farnam Street
Despite their proven effectiveness, these systems are not yet widespread. So far, it remains a complex niche product for people closely associated with science, with the ability and motivation to tailor and sustain such complex solutions. In spite of the exterior appeal of such note-taking philosophy, we often overestimate the amount of information we need. Modern society encourages us to be faster and consume more, driven by the fear of missing out.

In the pursuit of surplus knowledge, we’ve lost our boundaries, not understanding why we collect notes or how we are going to use them. Maintaining a knowledge system complexity that exceeds necessity would be difficult without external motivation. However, this is impossible because controlling one’s own vault of knowledge is a personal task. You can’t assign it to another person or give it entirely to a black-box algorithm.

But we don’t have to use a full-fledged technology stack to get value from the incoming hints. It is more efficient to keep a steady pace of work to start getting a meaningful result.

Keep on flowing

Equally important is the state in which we approach information management. Forcing ourselves into productivity is the wrong strategy while working with such delicate mental structures. Regrettably, many knowledge management products are built on this principle. The routine of daily tasks and an endless stream of new content needs to be processed and correctly submitted into PKM.

If a personal reason makes you skip once or twice in a row, you can still catch up. But periodically skipping a given workflow will undermine your faith in the selected PKM tech stack and, more importantly, in yourself as a person capable of systematically consuming meaningful information. Therefore, it is essential to build a flow, based not on specific performance metrics of your tools, but on an adequate assessment of a personal ability to accomplish a task at a given point in time. Users will revisit their notes over and over again for weeks and months if they are in a state of flow.

Hints solution

The goal of Hints as a company is to help users handle complex information flows, given their current willpower. We interviewed many potential users before starting work on Hints to confirm our hypotheses. Regular revision not only helps to remember the right information but also changes the user’s attitude to the material itself, keeping them interested for a long time.

At the intersection of different fields of knowledge new ideas usually emerge. The unique insights come from combining several hints in a way nobody thought before. If you find the suggestion useful, it will be repeated in a week; if not, it may appear in a few months. It can be the simple realization of one’s role in the family, such as when a father remembers to go to his daughter’s concert. Now, let’s imagine the grand opening of new branches in a seemingly limited business niche, due to thoughtful and in-depth market research. Hints could be found anywhere.

Good books contain thousands of small hints. Good films carry hidden clues that are revealed only after several replays. Good information must be sought carefully, but it is not enough. Without the system capturing, developing, and regular reconsideration, the information will quickly be lost and replaced by a new, no less interesting concept. That’s why it’s so important to find a way to record hints that don’t seem too complicated even when we are lacking willpower.

We at Hints understand the importance of the flow state in which we are trying to interact with the world. And for any level of energy, there must be a flow, which will support and allow us to read hints from the universe.

Just taking notes is not enough. We should let them pass through ourselves to convert them into hints… and spark changes in our lives.