Monday, April 22, 2013

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).

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