Today I faced two large projects that both overwhelmed me. Both involved too much information that required winnowing. (To winnow out means to blow or sift through something in order to remove the chaff and find what’s essential.)
When you winnow, you start with an enormous pile–of words, of things, of thoughts, of tasks. And then begin sorting through it—lightly, like wind. The vital things remain; they stay stuck. You can’t get rid of them. The other things flutter up and you can imagine them leaving forever. They don’t really matter to the project.
When I winnow, I keep a highlighter in hand (either literally or metaphorically). I highlight key words, key tasks, and key goals. Everything else I’ve winnowed out.
In many ways, I feel like my whole life has been a winnowing process. The older I grow, the more I rest in what matters. I remove excess. I try to get to the best of everything.