Monday, April 22, 2013

Be More Detail Oriented to Get Ahead

Those striving for excellence in their career get a lot of mileage out of giving proper attention to detail. "The Devil is in the details", as they say and when you show your boss that you notice the little things -- the stuff that drives him crazy -- he'll see realize you can handle things on your own and work with minimal supervision. This is the kind of employee that most companies seek.

If you are keen to details you can most likely maintain your schedules well, provide quality output that requires little to no re-work, effectively meet deadlines, and generally make your company a better and more profitable place AND MAKE YOUR BOSS' LIFE EASIER. Below are useful tips to become detail oriented at work.

Write Things Down

A check lists is almost always a great idea for making sure things get done right. Check lists essentially automate attention to detail. You don't have to write long sentences. What you need is to scribble key words on the things you have to do. This way, you will know exactly the tasks on queue and others things you need to deal with for the day (or to properly complete the task at hand). Though it is a good organization scheme to follow, do not restrict yourself to this. You could devise your own system for organization. Just make sure that you follow it strictly. When you write things down, most likely, you will not miss anything that is vital. I highly recommend Atul Gawande's "A Checklist Manifesto" along with some other great attention to detail resources.

Ask for Additional Information

Many employees are afraid to ask for further information because they don't want others to see them as someone who doesn't know what to do. This is a big pitfall for all employees especially when assigned with an important task. It would be great if your manager would provide you with general instruction or information about the task that you have to perform but remember that your boss is a person, too, and we all make mistakes and forget things from time to time.  If you need more information or don't understand something, just ask.  Even bosses who are jerks realize the importance of getting things right so you might say, "I want to make sure I get this perfect for you and our client so how does the client primarily use this system?"

Most good managers will appreciate your willingness to step up and ask for additional information. Asking good and thoughtful questions shows you care about the success of the company.

Ask for an Evaluation

The best way to learn that you are improving is to evaluate yourself. It would be better to have it accomplished by other people. You could ask your boss to provide you a feedback or suggestion on the work you completed to improve your performance the next time. Prepare yourself for the feedback you will hear. You are essentially asking someone to point out your faults so you can eradicate them. Listen carefully and with an open mind so you can use the feedback to improve your performance. You may be surprised at how many of the things you hear you could put under the category of "didn't notice that" or "could have corrected with more careful review of work." Regardless, the important thing here is you learn.

Double-Check Your Work

Many of the mistakes made in workplaces could have been caught if someone just double-checked his own work. Countless deliveries have been made with missing items because someone didn't double-check the order against the quote request.  Numerous writers could have kept their jobs if only they had double-checked their work before turning it in with numerous errors and misspellings which their boss had to correct or return for more budget-killing re-do's.

When you complete a task, take a short break first then meticulously review what you have done. Always keep in mind that there is something wrong in your work when you do the checking. It's a good mentality rather than being overly confident that there is nothing wrong with your work.

Being more detail oriented takes time. Patience and constantly giving your best in everything you do would surely help. Follow the tips mentioned above and you will soon find yourself becoming more efficient with your work.

Learning How to Pay Attention to Detail

It does not matter if a person thinks in big pictures or whether they get fed up with acute detail. There are times in life for everyone when he or she must pay attention to detail. For everyone, there are moments when attention to detail will mean earning or losing a great deal of money, getting hired or fired, or even living or dying. For some people, these important decisions are made only occasionally while others make them daily.

If a person loses interest when there is too much detail, how can they change this to improve their attention to detail? Learning how to change this will help a person be more careful and exact in all areas of their life. This simple post has four simple ideas for learning to stay focused and give more attention to detail.

Make a Game of It (Practice on Small Stuff)

A person could make a game out of it. They could challenge themselves to memorize every last thing about what they are paying attention to. Points can be given for everything that is memorized.  Practice on "small" tasks from puzzles to sorting mail so the more important things -- bills or contracts, for example -- will be easier.

Take a Break

Taking a break is important, sometimes paying too much attention can be detrimental to noticing the details. A person stresses about the details that need to be remembered and suddenly their mind goes blank. Therefore, it is good to compromise and have a break from time to time. It only takes a few seconds or minutes, then a person can go back to concentrating hard again. Do some breathing exercises or take a leisurely walk around your office building; the point is to rest your mind in preparation for the task ahead.

Use a Check List

checklists automate attention to detail
You will notice this is a recurring them in our posts, articles, and training. Writing a checklist is an excellent idea whether you are packing for a camping trip or getting ready for take-off.

Pilots use check lists extensively -- so much so there are standardized extensive checklists a pilot must go through before takeoff. When doing important projects, write a checklist of everything that needs to be completed and tick it off once it is completed. Your checklist depends upon the task but you can make a checklist for nearly everything. For instance, a checklist for writing a client report might look like this:
  • Write goal statement / purpose of report (sell product, explain costs, etc)
  • Make outline
  • Write report
  • Check citations
  • Proof-read it with focus on flow; correct as needed
  • Proof-read with focus on spelling and grammar; correct as needed
  • Proof-read it BACKWARDS with focus on spelling and punctuation; correct as needed
  • Ask colleague to proof-read; discuss/make edits
Notice there are 4 proof reads. Attention to detail is often about more ATTENTION being given. 

Get Help

Sometimes it is necessary to get help. Nobody can remember everything and another person can spot details they have missed so get someone to check your work.

You CAN Learn Attention to Detail

Contrary to popular belief, attention to detail can be learned, improved, and mastered. Sure, it "comes naturally" for some people but that is just because they naturally do the things you can learn to do.

And, it's worth it. Attention to detail can set an employee apart from other employees in ANY job from astronauts (they get to live) to sandwich makers (fewer re-do's and less wasted food, faster service).

More Tips to Be More Detail Oriented

Here are some simple tips on how to be more detailed oriented at work, school, or training. 

Use Check Lists & Reminders

check lists help be more detail oriented
Have a reminder of the most critical things to do or attend by using clues and reminders like calendars and sticky notes. Set calendar alerts on your phone or write event reminders on sticky notes and calendars. Put sticky note and calendar reminders in places that you would see them most of the time, like on your refrigerator or desk. Make a to-do list every night before going to bed highlighting the things you should do the next day.

Some of the most effective people start every day by creating a check list for the day; a simple list of items that must be done before they leave work for the day. Make it even more effective by putting the things you DON'T want to do at the TOP of the list. The day gets better -- and easier -- as it goes along.  

Turn Off Distractions

With family, friends and work fighting for your attention phone calls, e-mails, text messages, and face-time, it may not be easy to concentrate on the most important things you need to do. Avoiding unnecessary distractions goes a long way -- it's basically required, actually -- in helping you focus on the task at hand give your full attention to details.

Switch off your phone, do not check your emails, and be in a quiet place to minimize the chances getting distracted by interruptions such as external sounds. But if your workstation is neither secluded nor quiet, wear headphones and listen to soft background music to cancel out distractions and external sounds. You might even turn your desk to face the wall rather than the doorway or window to avoid distraction from people or even day-dreamy weather.

Some of the reasons that may make you to avoid or rush through details are lack of time, lack of interest and exhaustion. Therefore, ensure that every task is completed and reviewed to meet the desired completion.

Think positively: Being more detail oriented may lead to a promotion at your workplace. The relationship between you and your family or friends might also improve if you are attentive to the details mentioned in the conversation. When it comes to your studies, being detail oriented can mean better studying habits and opportunities.

Get Sufficient Rest

Recharge your energy and revive your exhausted body by sleeping for 7-8 hours every night. Having a high quality sleep would allow you to wake up easily without the need of setting an alarm. When the body is rested, your brain is more efficient  at producing chemicals like adrenaline and dopamine which help you to stay focused and detail oriented. On the other hand, insufficient rest reduces your concentration levels, which makes you vulnerable to forgetfulness and poor attention span.

exercise for improved attention to detailExercise Regularly

Performing aerobic exercises like cycling, brisk walking and running at least thrice every week can enhance your concentration levels. Engaging in aerobic exercises makes your brain to release dopamine, an essential chemical that reduces stress and makes you to be detail oriented. If your work may not allow you to leave your desk, just stand up for a couple of minutes. This simple act would signal the brain to stay alert and focused.