Attention to detail is a soft skill, so what you need to do to improve it centres around your attitude.
While some say that the devil is in the detail – meaning it is easy to get bogged down in the finer points at the expense of other more urgent issues – it is also true that people who have good attention to detail skills are much sought after by employers.
It is possible, too, to be both a big picture thinker and have an eye for small details that others don’t necessarily notice.
Some of the most famous visionaries in the world are known for their meticulous attitudes. Steve Jobs, for example, famously said “Details matter, it’s worth waiting to get it right.”
People like Marie Curie, Nikola Tesla and Ada Lovelace are all remembered as geniuses today precisely because they were so diligent and dedicated to their work.
Of course, it goes without saying that the Lovelaces and Teslas of this world are few and far between.
A middle ground of being able to take pride in the quality of your work is definitely something to aim for if you want to be known as someone who pays attention to detail.
Because attention to detail is a soft skill, what you need to do to improve it centres around your attitude. By adopting some new good habits you can quite easily train yourself to notice things you might not have before.
Here are seven habits to get into to improve your attention to detail.
Keep a work diary
Keeping a diary is a very personal thing, but it can also be useful for anyone who wants to be more conscientious at work. Use a notebook or a word document, or whatever you prefer, to track your strengths, weaknesses, things you need to work on and things you want to learn.
You don’t need to write a big long diary entry every day, but periodically thinking about ways you can improve or do things differently is always a good idea for your own career growth.
Every few months, you should do something called a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. You write down your thoughts under each heading and try and consciously work on each one.
Ask for feedback
Constructive criticism from a manager or a mentor is often the best way to notice things that you need to improve on or pay attention to.
Continuing from the previous point about keeping a workplace diary to track your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, it could be very helpful to share a version of this with your boss. Discuss your performance and ask them what they notice about your work. You could gain a whole new perspective based on what they tell you.
Avoiding distraction is easier said than done. If we could avoid it, it wouldn’t be a distraction, after all. If you are the sort of person who gets distracted easily or finds it difficult to focus, you need to do something about it.
Wasting time and procrastinating do not make for a disciplined mindset, or a mindset that notices details. If your distractions lie on the internet – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and random clickbaity articles – do yourself a favour and get an internet blocker app.
Just as distractions and dawdling are bad for concentration, hyper-focus isn’t helpful either. Working very long hours without breaks for food, water, exercise and rest is very bad for your general health as well as your overall concentration levels.
If something is escaping you, it can be a good idea to take a quick break and return to the task a few minutes later with a fresh mind.
You won’t have time to pay attention to detail if you aren’t organised. Think about the people in your life who do pay attention to detail. Are they scattered or forgetful? Chances are they aren’t.
Being organised is not just about having colour-coded folders or a tidy desk. It means you know what you have to do and you’re prepared for any challenges that come your way. You can use software like Trello, Microsoft 365 and Asana to organise your tasks and tick them off as they are done so you don’t miss or forget anything.
Listen to others
This point is tied in to the point about asking for feedback, but it warrants its own separate piece because listening is a very important skill when it comes to paying attention to detail.
It can be too easy for some people, especially people with forceful personalities, to steamroll over other colleagues. Listening to co-workers and clients and responding in a way that makes them know that you are hearing what they have to say makes the world of difference.
Change it up
Finding yourself stuck in a rut with a particular task is always unpleasant. If you can’t ask for help or if you suspect you’re going at it from the wrong angle, it might be a good idea to try something new.
By changing your usual approach you might discover a new way of looking at something.
10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.