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5 Keys to Simplifying Any Concept

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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About the author

Tina Su is a mom, a wife, a lover of Apple products and a CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) for our motivational community: Think Simple Now. She is obsessed with encouraging and empowering people to lead conscious and happy lives. Subscribe to new inspiring stories each week. You can also subscribe to Tina on Facebook.

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36 thoughts on 5 Keys to Simplifying Any Concept

  1. I find alot of information is repeated on the internet and you do see the same copy everywhere. I do a good quantity of research for my site and you are totally right, there is not alot of new material that I haven’t read.

    When you try to imagine the universe of the internet and every article in every server, its overwelming the amount of information we have at the tip of our fingers.

    Good blog.
    Good blessings

  2. jd

    I’m a fan of patterns. In software engineering, we use patterns to quickly share information. For example, a single term can represent hundreds of words or images.

  3. Zeinab Abed

    Definately a useful article

  4. I’ve found it very helpful to get more information. For instance, I’ve purchased over 100 hours of mp3s of one spiritual teacher whose stuff I love. As I listened more and more, I got deeper and deeper into the essence of what he was speaking of. It helped immensely.

  5. As of this moment, I am now going to keep track of every blog article I read with a one-sentence summary. This should serve the dual purpose of:

    a) keeping me mindful of what (and how much) I’m reading and
    b) helping me practice discernment as pertains to simplicity.

  6. Becky Lynne

    I read a book once where the author said, “Twenty percent of this book
    will make an 80% difference in your life.” It was true. I have found this
    concept true in other books I read, speeches, sermons, etc.

  7. Neeke

    I read and understood this article it in the context of studying. Like for academics. One and five are almost the same. I guess the plug about the audio lets you hear and comprehend. It uses your other sense so you might “capture” something through audio that you missed visually. Graphics would be good here to establish a pattern. I guess then we’re back around to adult picture books. It’ll give your brain a break for sure.

  8. Vijay

    Simplifies the simplification process! Being an instructional designer, this process is my bread and butter and I know the value of the suggestions made. Thanks!
    One question, why do most bloggers don’t date their content?

  9. Kindred

    Excellent information and article! I am going to print it and refer to it often until it becomes second nature. Thanks so much, and keep these awesom articles flowing . . .

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