We all know that attention to detail is important because it helps prevent mistakes and makes success in the workplace easier. The problem is that being attentive to detail can be nearly impossible when you’re at work and your boss and colleagues keep distracting you, or you’re one of those people who just can’t focus. But, there are methods and techniques which you can apply that will help you become better at paying attention to detail.
Below you’ll find 10 effective ways you can develop this powerful skill in the workplace.
1. Get Organised
It makes sense that when everything is chaotic, details will slip. The first step to take to improve your attention to detail at work is to get organised. Now, getting organised doesn’t mean that you need to tidy up your workspace and waste time going through your stuff, but it does mean that you need to start using your calendar. Mark down appointments and meetings to ensure you won’t forget about them and note any details or thoughts you have about each meeting. Then, plan each day by making a note of deadlines and important dates.
Bullet journals are all the rage now, and I’m fairly certain that once you watch this Buzzfeed video about creating your own, you’ll be motivated to make one as well.
2. Make Lists
Many people are under the impression that being organised and having lists hinders creativity, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Making lists can boost creativity as it takes away a lot of the stress that goes hand in hand with multi-tasking and it allows you to prioritise and allocate time for every task. You become more focused on what you’re doing which is the main ingredient to being attentive to detail.
Making lists can be a fun activity in itself, although you should be careful not to become too attached to your lists because that can be counterproductive as well. And although there’s nothing wrong with traditional post-its and hand-written lists, why not go for an app that will remind you when it’s time to do something? There are many apps available that can do so much more than a traditional list.
Some of my favourite apps include Google Keep which although it needs a little work on its user-interface, is so effective you’ll soon forgive it’s rather unpolished appearance. You can download it on both Android and iOS for free. If want a more sleek looking app you can try Wunderlist (available on Android and iOS for free) or Any.do (also available on Android and iOS for free).
3. Limit Distractions
One of the reasons why we tend not to pay attention to details is because we are distracted all the time. The question, of course, is how to limit distractions? Most of us work in open plan workspaces which make distractions inevitable; there’s always someone getting up, talking to someone, etc. You’ll need to learn how to detach yourself from the rest of the office and mentally isolate yourself.
Research has time and again shown that people who listen to classical music (Mozart in particular) can be more productive, so it’s worth giving it a shot. I’d strongly advise against listening to music with lyrics as this will just end up adding to your list of distractions.
It’s also important that you turn off phone notifications and if you have an extension that pops-up every time you get an email disable that as well. Limit the time you spend checking your email and create a space that helps you relax and focus.
4. Take Regular Breaks
You probably already know that our brains are a muscle which mean that they need their downtime as well. Overworking your brain and working straight from 9 to 5 without taking a break can be incredibly counter-productive. For our brain to be able to pay attention to detail, it needs to be well-rested, so it’s crucial that you schedule regular breaks.
Get up as often as you can and walk around the office, while you should also give yourself mental breaks. Spare a few minutes to read your favourite blog, or to look up recipes for dinner. Going back to work with a refreshed mind can make your brain more focused which can help you spot any mistakes or just make it easier to pay attention to detail.
If you are worried that taking regular breaks might not go down well with your boss, well you don’t have to share that piece of info with them, do you? All they need from you is results; you can keep your breaks to yourself. These awesome websites for wasting time at work will let you have a nice little break while never leaving your desk.
5. Play Focus Enhancing Games
Coming back to the concept of the brain as a muscle, exercising your brain is just as important as giving it time to rest. Think of an athlete, for example; they train day in day out to increase their stamina and improve their performance. Similarly, workers need to train their brains to perform at their best.
The easiest - and most entertaining - way to do that is by playing focus enhancing games like cards or spot the difference. Of course, there are also lots of apps that can help you improve your attention and focus like Peak (get it on Android and iOS) and Elevate (get it on Android and iOS)
6. Be Present
One of the main reasons people tend not to pay attention to detail is because they are just not present when performing a task. With all the distractions, stress and pressure most employees deal with it’s easy to understand how someone can zone out, but it pushes you to produce poor quality work which can be disastrous for your reputation and your career.
The best way to remedy this situation is to identify the reasons you are so often not present and find solutions. If it’s because you’re bored at work, well maybe it’s time to move on, if it’s because your workload is too heavy and all you do is think about how long it will take you to do everything then you may need to have a chat with your manager about delegating your tasks.
7. Embrace Your Routine
Too much routine can kill you, but a lack of routine makes you undisciplined so find an in-between that’s ideal for you. The reason routine can be beneficial to developing this skill is that it forces you to do the same things over and over again which means that as you’re familiar with going through the motions, you’re much more likely to pay attention to smaller things, i.e., the details. Routine basically helps train the mind and you should therefore learn to embrace it.
8. Prioritise Quality
One of the main reasons most people’s work suffers is that speed is more important than quality. But, it’s important that you prioritise quality because not doing so could cost you your job, reputation and your career. If you have too heavy a workload, talk with your manager and make your case. Do they value quantity over quality, or do they have more long-term plans that will require setting better foundations?
9. Come Up With a Personal Rewards System
I’m not going to lie, being focused and paying attention to detail is hard for me as well. My mind tends to wonder more than I’d like to admit and one of the best tips I ever got was to create a rewards system for yourself. We are all kids at heart, and we all like to get rewarded when we get something right, the problem often is that our bosses couldn’t care less, so find ways to reward yourself.
One way is give yourself breaks, say for example that you’ve spend x amount of minutes completely focused at work, why not give your brain a rest afterwards? Another way is to spoil yourself each ten-twenty mistakes you’ve spotted because you were attentive to detail. Whatever you choose to do, it has to be something that’s meaningful to you.
10. Be an Active Participant in Meetings
One of the reasons many of us don’t pay as much attention as we’d like to detail is because we are not involved with our jobs. If you care about your job and you’d like to change that, then a great place to start is by becoming a more active participant in meetings. Meetings are where decisions are made and being able to voice your opinions gives you the opportunity to become more involved which can help make you more enthusiastic as well.
Developing this skill is crucial for employees, especially those who are just starting their careers. Identifying methods and techniques which will help you improve your attention to detail can be a vital aspect of your career development.
Do you have any other tips for developing your attention to detail skills? Let me know in the comment section below.
This article was originally published in July 2014.