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24 Nov

Five ways in which to be more concrete

Datum: 2014-11-24 10:02

Much of the time wast­ed on noth­ing spe­cial in our dai­ly lives has its ori­gin in us being unclear in come way. It might for exam­ple be that we decide the time and place for a meet­ing in such an ambigu­ous way that we have to e‑mail or call the per­son we are meet­ing with sev­er­al times as the date of the meet­ing approach­es to clar­i­fy where and when we should meet.

Some­times we for­mu­late what we have to do so vague­ly that we do not under­stand what we meant as we see the note made on the to-do-list a week lat­er. We might describe how to do some­thing in such an ambigu­ous way that it is dif­fi­cult to find room for improve­ment even though we often expe­ri­ence that the method we are cur­rent­ly using is a has­sle and requires more time to use than it should.

The whole group agrees that we are not work­ing in an opti­mal way and that it would be much eas­i­er to attain the desired goals and results if we sim­ply did what we agreed we would do the last time we dis­cussed the mat­ter at the con­fer­ence a few months back. But, rather than clear­ly and con­crete­ly defin­ing what we need to do dif­fer­ent­ly and in what sit­u­a­tion or con­text, we con­clude that we need to do bet­ter”. And that’s that. No real progress has been made and the prob­lem remains.

In a sur­pris­ing­ly large num­ber of instances, I serve the pur­pose of being the one who helps my clients con­cretize and clar­i­fy things. I give imme­di­ate feed­back and often ask Yes, but how?” sev­er­al times in a row, almost sound­ing as if some­one has pressed my Repeat”-button. With a stub­born approach to attempt­ing to clar­i­fy what’s what, I seek a spe­cif­ic and con­crete answer to this impor­tant ques­tion since it makes our work so much easier. 

Be con­crete and distinct
Being dis­tinct is to describe some­thing as real­is­ti­cal­ly as pos­si­ble. Describ­ing it con­crete­ly is to express some­thing in such a way that you can see it vivid­ly before you. You have described some­thing con­crete­ly and dis­tinct­ly if you can respond to it with the atti­tude of either yes, absolute­ly” or no, no way”.

If you are con­crete when for­mu­lat­ing what you are to achieve it is easy to define the next step and it will be a piece of cake to get start­ed. But if you on the oth­er hand are impre­cise, you have paved the way for exten­sive mis­un­der­stand­ings and made it much more dif­fi­cult to fig­ure out what the next step it, hence risk­ing the entire project or task to stop pro­gress­ing completely.

Some­times I think of the art of pho­tog­ra­phy. Besides for in some forms of artis­tic pho­tog­ra­phy, we strive to snap sharp images in the high­est res­o­lu­tion pos­si­ble. Doing so will pro­vide us with as much infor­ma­tion as pos­si­ble to work with both visu­al­ly and tech­ni­cal­ly. We will have the great­est extent of free­dom to alter the image to our lik­ing. If the pic­ture is blurred or even just slight­ly out of focus, we will have less oppor­tu­ni­ties to make alter­ations and improve­ments. If we have dis­tinct and con­crete mate­r­i­al at hand, we also have greater oppor­tu­ni­ties to do what we want or need to do with it.

Do this
Express your­self as con­crete­ly and specif­i­cal­ly as you can when com­mu­ni­cat­ing both with oth­ers and your­self. For example:

  • State the time, num­ber, amount or some oth­er dis­tinct noun as often as you can:
    • What day can the client expect the delivery?
    • How many?
    • How much will it cost?
    • Where will we meet and when?

  • Use dis­tinct verbs (call, dis­cuss, decide, write, send) rather than ambigu­ous (see each oth­er, fix, solve, han­dle, deal with).

  • Write full sen­tences and use as few abbre­vi­a­tions as pos­si­ble when for­mu­lat­ing to-do-tasks. Fix DKG fo GD wed + mess YS ab LGR” can seem obvi­ous at the moment, but after two phone-calls, three e‑mails and a cof­fee-break it might not make as much sense as you would like it to.

  • Rather than just think­ing through how you usu­al­ly per­form the time-con­sum­ing rou­tine you often do, draw and map it out as a process by let­ting each step be rep­re­sent­ed by a box. When you have sketched it out it will be much eas­i­er to mix and match the steps of the process, remove redun­dant steps and find the bottlenecks.

  • Con­crete­ly define what you need to dif­fer­ent­ly in the group in order to achieve bet­ter results, prefer­ably expressed in terms of to-do-tasks rather than just say­ing that you will make a greater effort since you are prob­a­bly already work­ing as hard as you can. 

The ben­e­fit of clarifying
The more con­crete­ly you express your­self, the few­er mis­con­cep­tions and mis­un­der­stand­ings fol­lowed by last-minute-emer­gency-solu­tions will be the result of your actions. If you start for­mu­lat­ing your e‑mails more explic­it­ly and clear­er, you will receive few­er e‑mails with ques­tions on what you meant (which requires even more time to respond to). If you are clear and unam­bigu­ous in com­mu­ni­cat­ing what you wish to achieve it will be much eas­i­er for oth­ers to think of ways in which they can assist you.

The more spe­cif­ic you are when defin­ing and com­mu­ni­cat­ing what needs to be done by who, the more cer­tain you can be that all those involved agree on what has been decid­ed, and less time will be spent wor­ry­ing that you are expect­ed to do some­thing you are cur­rent­ly not aware of.

What is your sit­u­a­tion like?
Has being more con­crete and dis­tinct in how you for­mu­late your­self made a dif­fer­ence in your dai­ly work? How!? Please share your thoughts. Write a comment!