Short vs Long Term

George Tziralis
Aug 10, 2016 · 3 min read
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image by flickr

Overnight success and quick wins. Sprints and hacks. Shortcuts, yolo. We’re getting used to value hastiness as our ideal. We give things a try; then time runs out, nothing has worked and we ‘need’ to move on.

Well, here it goes: High expectations cannot be met fast. Even when they do, they leave you with a bitter feeling the day after — were they remarkable indeed? It is time to take a step back and reconsider.

There are things you do for your short-term needs and things you do for your long-term objectives. More often than not, their distinction is clear. Yet, striking the right balance is hard. Here’s a simple way to deal with it.

In the short term, just do what it takes to keep you going and pursue your long-term mission — everything else is a waste of time.

There are a few good reasons for this. First, the core thing that makes you happy is purpose. Not success, money, power, fame–you name it–, but purpose. It is essential that you define yours; it may change down the road, yet it makes all the difference between going somewhere and a random walk.

Second, make no mistake, the interesting things in life are long term endeavours. Greatness takes time, and this is a genuine filter, too; if you can make it fast, then it’s probably not that great. You’d better make some proper time to go after the great things while enjoying the ride in between.

In this context, short-term goals are serving as the fuel to get you there. Do not assume they’re secondary, or else you will soon realise you can only go so far when running out of gas. Pick them wisely and put some good work behind them, too; they still take an effort, but they should be paying off fast.

At the same time, it is essential that you treat such actions as short-term. Don’t get used to how cool they are or how easy you can make them work for you; they’re a way to an end, not an end in itself. In more practical terms, short-term things are meaningful as long as they are time multipliers, i.e. they buy you time without wasting much of it.

As simple as the above may sound, it takes a lot of effort to figure things out and consistently put them to good use. Defining your long-term mission, distinguishing between what is getting you there versus what buys you time at best, then allocating your time accordingly while getting rid of everything else, is far from an easy task.

That said, you’ll get impressed by the clarity and focus such an approach provides. Decisions are becoming crystal clear, true priorities emerge and temporary noise does not affect the big picture. What’s more, progress accumulates over time; it does feel good.

To paraphrase Bill Gates, we tend to overestimate how far we can go in a year, and underestimate how far we can go in a decade. Hopefully, this simple framework will help you go as far as possible. Time is our most precious asset, and the long-term view can turn it from an enemy to our best friend.

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