Using a Filter – A Critical Step to Avoid Overwhelm

We have all met someone who doesn’t seem to have a filter. The person that just puts it all out there and there’s no space or pause between what they are thinking and what they are saying? I hold a small place in my heart for these folks because I (not so) secretly envy them – my filter is way too high! I think way too much about what I am going to say before I say it and sometimes I wish I could just let it all hang out.  

Filtering is a part of the writing process.

After we generate and collect all of our ideas, it’s time filter them. Decide ahead of organizing and expanding on your ideas, which ideas you are going to use.

It is common to be overwhelmed by all of our ideas and not know where to start. Sometimes we skip the filter and organize steps and start to expand our all of our ideas and create pages and pages of writing about all of the ideas that we have. It can be confusing and discouraging for you to muddle through and decide what to include after expansion and ultimately lead to confusing the reader.

Most scientific writing that leads to reader confusion suffers from too many ideas and not from a lack of good ideas.

So, the question becomes what is your filter for choosing which ideas to include and how will you apply it? An extremely useful filter can be created by answering the following three questions related to your paper or grant: 1) Who is your audience? 2) What is your message? and, 3) What does your audience need to know to understand your message? (Thank you Nancy Duarte)

Filtering your ideas to only those that are necessary for your audience to understand and believe your message can be a complex and iterative process.

However, by filtering your ideas by your audience and message at this stage, you are not only making it easier for yourself to write, you will also make it easier for the reader to understand your message.

Here are some questions to ask to create and use your filter to decide which ideas to include:

  • Who is my audience and what are they interested in?
  • If I have multiple audiences, how will I engage them?
  • What is their knowledge within the field?
  • What are they interested in learning more about?
  • What do they care about?
    What is the gap that you are filling with your data and what do you want to communicate about how your data fills the gap and changes the field.
  • What is your message?
    What shift will they need to make in their thinking to understand and believe my message?
  • What ideas would they need to let go of for them to understand and believe my message?
    How can I use what I know now with my data to shift this thinking or allow them to let go of what they already believe based on their knowledge of the field?

These questions will help you to understand your audience, and your message and begin to communicate what your audience needs to know to understand your message and often times shift their own thinking and beliefs.

Are you overly comfortable, comfortable or uncomfortable with having a filter? Take a look and see how it affects your writing and use a filter as a tool to make writing easier.

If you are feeling overwhelmed with an abundance of ideas and directions and you are not sure what to include in your paper or grant and you would like to learn more about how to filter your ideas, I invite you to email me at for a complimentary Discovery Call where we will have a powerful coaching conversation and begin the process of understanding and connecting with your experiences and whether the work I do will serve you.

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