Photo by Bruno Monginoux
We live in a world ruled by information. Much of our lives are involved with the consumption of information. We read the newspaper in the morning. We sit in meetings at work. We check our email every hour. We read billboards on the highway while driving home. We watch the news on television. We surf the internet and check blogs. Our minds become so full of information that the words become noise. We feel tired from the constant demand on our attention; at work, at home, on weekends. More is not less. Less is more. Clarity is more. Personally, when I am hit with a lot of information, my mind shuts-off and I move on to the next thing. To be heard and understood, it is vital to keep things simple.
The ability to simplify any concept is an incredibly valuable skill in this information rich society. Not only is conciseness a vital skill in business, but in any and all communication. It demonstrates clarity of thought. It allows you to communicate information and ideas to be easily digested and understood.
But how do we distill information down to just the most important parts? My dear friend David Margolis is an expert at simplifying information. I recently asked him, “What are your suggestions to becoming a master at distilling information?” Here are the most important points from that conversation:
1. Find the Pattern – Make a habit to look for patterns in words and pictures. For example, if you picked up a copy of a new magazine, you will not notice any patterns apart of its style consistency. But if you saw the last 12 copies of the same magazine, you will start to notice patterns.
2. Capture the Essence - Pick out the main points and key principles. Try reading 100 pages of a book and pretend that you had to explain it to a large audience, in only a few sentences. This is a good practice to help simplify your thoughts. I do this with every personal development book I read. After each chapter, write down one sentence that clearly exemplifies and captures the meaning of the chapter.
3. Ask Questions – Be proactive as you read or listen by asking yourself questions. Some example questions might be:
- What are the most important points here?
- What is the author trying to say?
- What are the conclusions?
4. Find What Jumps Out – Take note of what leaps off the page. Be sensitive to and feel what resonates with you. What would you highlight if you had a highlighter? What points do you feel will be helpful to know and valuable to pass on? What were the ‘ah-hah!’ moments you experienced while reading it?
5. Consume More Information – I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but the more information we consume, the better get at filtering for what truly matters. Similar to finding patterns, this one is more to do with practice. Here’s what David said:
“Read voraciously, listen to audio books and attend conferences – after a while you’ll start to notice the same messages filtering thru everyone’s book or talk – those are the most important points – the ones that universally keep cropping up
When I read my first book about the law of attraction, 100% of the info was new to me. The next book I read, 80% of the material was new. The next one I read, 60% of the information was new. These days only 2-5% of the info is new. You know the key information and supporting info and while we’re always open to learning – there’s a shift from books to real life experiences that help to apply the theory“
What do you think? Do you find it challenging to simplify information? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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