This being the fourth week in January, many people are making resolutions to improve their lives. Many want to work toward improving the distribution of work-related tasks on their team, usually through cross-training. With training comes periods when you have to explain complicated tasks to someone or a group of people. And when that time comes, you need to know how to express those tasks in a simple manner. However, many individuals find that difficult. Today I provide 3 ways to translate complex tasks into simple guides.
3 Ways To Translate Complex Tasks: Remove Or Explain Jargon
I found that jargon can provide more harm than good when explaining how to do certain tasks to others. Mostly because those individuals aren’t involved in the field, and really don’t care what the jargon mean. They just want a solution to their problem. So I suggest removing jargon from your explanation.
Let’s see this in action in an example: Your mom uploads some pictures to Google Photos but wonders where they go. She calls you to ask. If you tell her the pictures are in the “Cloud,” you mom is going to ask what the “Cloud” is. That will lead you to explain further, and you run the risk of confusing your mom. Instead, tell her the photos are saved on computers in another part of the country, which are connected to the Internet, so they are always available.
However, if you can’t remove jargon from your explanation at all, then you will have to explain it. Again, use simplistic language and don’t go into much detail what the word means. Just give enough so the person isn’t confused.
Here’s an example: A customer asks you why they continue to get messages on their computer about their firewall. In this case it’s correct to explain what the firewall because 1) the word shows up in the error messages and 2) the customer would want to know how to resolve that issue.
Per Wikipedia, a firewall is “a network security system that monitors and controls incoming and outgoing network traffic based on predetermined security rules.” You can simplify that definition to the customer to “a firewall protects your computer from harm from the Internet.”
3 Ways To Translate Complex Tasks: Document The Steps To The Task
The second way to translate complex tasks into simple guides requires you to write down or write out the steps to the task.
Many of us do our daily work on auto-pilot because we do it all day, everyday. So when you have to explain it to another person who knows nothing of it, it’s easy to draw a blank. It happens to me. When I’m asked why I do one of my tasks a certain way, I must take a moment to think about why.
Hence, taking a moment to write down or write out the steps to the task on a piece of paper or in a Google Doc is very helpful. Not only do you document the correct steps in the process, but you also explain why these steps are done in a specific order.
This can also help you train new employees, along with giving you the opportunity to either remove or explain any and all jargon that pops up.
Use A Dictionary And Thesaurus
When I was in middle and high school, my teachers would get mad when we students used “small” words when talking to each other or writing papers. We had daily vocabulary classes which taught us “big” words to use, and our teachers wanted us to use them.
Turns out that practice is great in theory, but not in actual usage. Why? Because your audience may not have the reading level you have.
Recent literacy studies in America show more than 30 million adults in the United States cannot read, write, or do basic math above a third-grade level. And it’s commented newspapers are written from a sixth-grade to eighth-grade reading level.
This is why I highly suggest you use both a dictionary and a thesaurus when translating complex tasks. If one of your steps uses a “big” word then you can either define it, or find a related-yet-simpler word.
There are plenty of free websites you can use for dictionaries and thesauri. And many search engines can define words and provide similar words.
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