How to be concise.

A couple days ago, I expressed the desire to be more concise in my work. But I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to do that. Here’s what I’m thinking…

But before I can figure out how to be more concise, I need to figure out what exactly it means to be “not concise”. The way I see it there are four possibilities:

1. Too many words.

This is the easy one. This is when I’m either talking, writing, or giving a presentation and it’s simply just too long. The essence of what I’m trying to convey is then much smaller than what I have produced. This type of error is also the easiest to correct. Editing or practicing will help me eliminate the excess words. Another strategy is to think before I speak. A shocker I know. But sometimes, talking is what helps me distill my ideas. This means that I need to remember I will undoubtedly not be able to explain my ideas clearly on my first go. Obviously, I hope to get better at this over time, but in the short term I should remember to practice, practice practice.

However, when I think about my YouTube videos, sometimes I’ll do three takes and still have exactly the same amount of information to convey. So this leads me to my next point…

2. Too much information.

I think in this case, the excess comes from trying to group too many concepts together into one. If practicing and editing can’t cut out a sufficient amount of information, then I believe the category I’m working in is too large. I’ve tried to combine too many different topics into one cohesive piece. The solution in this case is subdivision. Finding better ways to group the concepts I hope to explain and then focusing on each of them individually.

3. Getting sidetracked.

This may be via stories that I want to tell or attempting to add my personality or “voice” to a piece. However, in many cases I think I might end up removing value by obscuring the point. This one is tricky I think because there’s no real way to figure out where to draw the line. To approach this problem, I would start by collecting pieces I have created that I like and trying to understand how they were constructed or what I like about them. I also think the more I write and create the better I’ll get at this one.

4. Not knowing what to say.

Sometimes, I just ramble. I don’t really have a point and I’m hoping it will emerge out of nowhere. I think sometimes these pieces can be gems. An interesting story turns into a distilled point or actionable series of steps. It’s quite lovely actually. But sometimes, it’s just a mess. There’s nothing there. Nothing behind the wall of text. It may be hard, but I honestly think the best thing to do in these cases is to just them go. I can always try again.

So what can I do about it?

Each of these four problems, at one point or another, has been why I am not concise. I suggested in each description some ways of approaching these problems, but at a higher level I want to think about why I have this problem in the first place and what I can do about it more broadly.

Fundamentally, I think the source of these problems is that I’ve been focusing on creating as much quantity as possible. I actually think the fact that I have this problem with being concise is a good thing. It means I’ve been very successful at overcoming my urges to plan, plan, plan. But, I’ve started taking it too far to the other extreme. I pretty much have been randomly making content, but now that I know I can overcome my tendency to plan and only plan, it’s time for me to add some more brainstorming back into the picture.

This is actually really exciting news because I love brainstorming. I do think that I need to be really careful though because there’s always the risk that I’ll fall back into my old ways and never create anything.

So yeah, all of those four problems I described above have specific solutions, but I think it might be easier to just avoid all of those problems in the first place. This is an example of a situation where it’s important to have different levels of thinking. It’s quite easy for me to get sucked into the details of a problem, but every now and then it’s important to take a step back and make sure we’re going down the right path. My mom always used to tell me a good photographer always looks back, because there might be a beautiful photo waiting to happen just behind you. I’m starting to realize this strategy can just as easily be applied to problem-solving as well.

To me, there’s nothing more exciting than getting sucked into a really good problem. But that just makes it all the more important for me to take a breath and make sure that the problem I’m diving into is the correct one.

So to be more concise, I just need to take some time to plan. I honestly don’t know how I missed this before but it makes complete sense now. I’m going to take some time to plan out the next few videos I want to work on, and try to have a schedule instead of only working off of whatever energy I’m feeling at the moment. I think this will also be good because it will add some more structure back into my very unstructured life.

As a bonus, I think for videos I’ll set a time goal in the planning process, which I think will help keep me in line and make me more aware of when it might be a good time to readjust. I’m super excited to see if I can finally find a balance between planning and doing.