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Published on February 13, 2020

7 Simple Habits to Improve Your Attention to Detail

7 Simple Habits to Improve Your Attention to Detail

Paying attention to detail is important in its own right, but it also gives you a more precise look at what the big picture might be. Thinking through the nitty-gritty nuances of a project without forgetting why they matter is the work of systems thinking.

Systems thinkers see how the individual moving parts of an initiative interact to make the whole thing work. In case that seems a little abstract, let’s look at it in a more concrete context: the workplace.

Why Paying Attention to Detail Is Key at Work

Every member of a team must have attention to detail in order to move the needle for the larger organization.

Insights don’t simply spring out of spreadsheets. Pulling key details out of data requires you to extract, transform, and load it into an analysis tool. Whatever business decision you face, you’ll make a better one if you know the details.

But it’s not just about business intelligence. Consider why attention to detail matters in the other domains of work:

Sales

Especially at B2B companies, sales is all about building relationships. Attention to detail is what makes it possible to remember the names of that sales leader’s kids or team members.

Getting the contract terms right takes attention to detail. So does picking up on prospects’ non-verbal cues — which, according to body language researchers, are responsible for more than half of a message’s impact.[1]

Marketing

Although learning more about workflow automation[2] can minimize mistakes, it’s no substitute for strong attention to detail. Rooting typos out of email copy, staying on top of the day’s trends, and comparing target keywords for sake of SEO all take a human eye.

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To maximize productivity, automate non-essential tasks and spend the time you save looking deeper into the details of the rest.

Human Resources

Never does attention to detail matter more than working with people. Everything from entering social security numbers correctly on health insurance forms to making sure every member of the team gets paid on time takes attention to detail. HR personnel without attention to detail could get the company sued or deliver a poor employee experience.

Bookkeeping and Accounting

Even small errors in payroll can get Uncle Sam’s attention.[3] Attention to detail ensures that accurate financial records are kept, which are essential for everything from audits to financial forecasting.

Bookkeepers need attention to detail to keep tabs on outstanding client invoices. Especially at public companies, accountants need attention to detail in order to provide accurate information to investors.

Leadership

At first blush, leadership might seem like an area where big-picture thinking matters more than attention to detail. But the details tend to be where tweaks can be made. Leaders who are too far removed from day-to-day processes can miss opportunities where innovation opportunities hide.

Attention to detail is important for every role at a company. So how can you tell whether or not you’re a detail-oriented person?

Are You a Detail-Oriented Person?

Detail-oriented people do certain things that those without the trait do not. But just because you do some of those things does not necessarily mean you have attention to detail. Everyone, for example, can pick up on a strong accent or remember faces.

I’ve noticed that people with above-average attention to detail have certain tendencies. If more than half of them apply to you, it’s a fair bet that you’re good at seeing the details:

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Self-critical

People who have attention to detail often turn that skill on themselves. It’s not always a bad thing, but it can be. Self-critical people are constantly looking for ways to improve themselves.

When it becomes a problem is when they focus too heavily on the details they do not like about themselves. Many detail-oriented people must learn to see the good in themselves.

Emotionally intelligent

Similarly, detail-oriented people are good at picking up on others’ emotions. They spot cues that go unnoticed by others, and they connect the dots to understand that person’s true thoughts and feelings.

That ability is particularly important at work: Research published in Harvard Business Review suggests emotional intelligence accounts for nearly 90% of high performers’ success.[4]

Prudent

Prudent people think carefully about what they do might affect the future. Going through “what if” scenarios requires systems thinking: Seeing the ripple effects of each action is using attention to detail to see the greater picture.

Neurotic

Attention to detail has its pros and cons as a personality trait. But it has clear workplace benefits, and for those who can keep a lid on related traits like neuroticism,[5] it can deepen a person’s relationships and help them avoid taking unnecessary risks.

The question is, how can you train your attention to detail?

How to Train Paying Attention to Detail

You might assume there’s not much you can do to become more detail oriented. How is it possible to become more attentive to things that you naturally gloss over?

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1. Walk Places You Normally Would Not

One of these days, try walking to work. If that’s too far, go to the grocery store. The point is, slow down and pay attention to what’s around you when you’d normally only think about your destination.

You’ll be stunned at what you notice. Even if you’ve taken the same route to and from work for years, you’ll spot homes you’ve never seen before. You’ll hear birds, smell plants, and even feel pressure points on your feet that create a completely new experience.

2. Read Regularly

Think about what it’s like to go back and reread your favorite book: the second time around, you notice foreshadowing, character motivations, and plot points that you simply didn’t see on your first read. Because you already know the main points of the plot, you’re able to pay attention to details that you simply didn’t have bandwidth to spot the first time through.

3. Take Frequent Breaks

Breaks are an important way to slow down, especially at work. It’s easy to get so caught up in your priority list that you forget to notice your own thoughts and feelings. Are you thirsty? If you’re sweating, is it because you’re nervous about something?

Developing attention to detail is about doing the work of noticing. If you want to become more aware, self-awareness is the best place to start.

A hack that not people know about to save time in your day for breaks is to use google calendar to do “speedy meetings”. This allows you to automatically shorten your scheduled meetings 5 or 10 minutes to add more breaks in your day.

4. Put Your Phone Away

Too much screen time can short circuit the brain in a way that makes it more difficult to concentrate. When you can’t concentrate on something, you won’t notice nearly as many details about it as you would otherwise.

Chances are, you can’t stop using screens entirely. Instead, set screen-free hours at key times: Before you leave for work in the morning, before a big test, and especially while you’re driving, keep your smartphone stowed in your pocket.

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5. Play Games Like ‘I Spy’

Improving your attention to detail does take work, but it doesn’t have to be miserable. Practice noticing small features in jumbled spaces. Games like “Where’s Waldo” and “I Spy,” which you can play for free online, help you train your eyes to see something specific in a noisy image.

6. Compliment Others Often

Delivering a genuine, unique compliment takes significant attention to detail. Think about it: Great compliments point out a positive feature in someone that often goes unnoticed by others.

Challenge yourself. Go beyond visual-based compliments like, “I like your sweater.” What mannerisms, traits, or ways of thinking does your target exhibit that only someone with serious attention to detail would notice?

7. Break Goals Into Smaller Pieces

Whatever you want to accomplish, it involves multiple steps. Even simple goals, such as “make new friends,” take a series of actions to achieve. You might start with the idea above: Give at least one standout compliment each day.

After you’ve made an acquaintance, you might take that person out to lunch. Attention to detail is important for thinking through how you’ll actually get from point “A” to “B.”

Final Thoughts

Training your attention to detail takes time, but it’s work worth doing. Think about the people you respect: They’re probably thoughtful of others, helpful where they can be, and diligent in their own lives.

To become the person you want to be personally and professionally, give your attention to detail some attention.

Featured photo credit: Kat Stokes via unsplash.com

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Kimberly Zhang

Kimberly Zhang is the Chief Editor of Under30CEO and has a passion for educating the next generation of leaders to be successful.

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Last Updated on August 10, 2020

How to Set Short Term Goals for a Successful Life

How to Set Short Term Goals for a Successful Life

Change begins with the hope of what’s possible in your life. Hope leads to a sense of expectancy Combine this with setting short-term goals, and the likelihood of being more happy and successful moves from possibility to reality.

Short-term goals, when created with well-formed criteria, offer incremental steps towards successfully achieving your bigger goals.

In this step-by-step guide, you’ll discover the secret to creating short-term goals that will set you up for success and help you sail past challenges of staying motivated easily.

What Is a Short-Term Goal?

Short-term goals are ‘short’, meaning the time frame can be as short as 10 minutes, a day, or as long as a week or a few months. Well-formed short-term goals begin with the end in mind.

Quick tip:

Write down the specific result you want to achieve and the date when it should happen. Then, work backward from this date, describing what you’ll notice yourself doing (and achieving) until you take the first step.

A short-term goal is the smallest step you need for you to reach a bigger goal centered around achieving something you passionately desire.

Passionate desire‘ is the key.

As Tony Robbins says,

People are not lazy. They simply have impotent goals – that is, goals that do not inspire them.[1]

Having passion when setting goals means getting your mind and body activated to fuel your energy and focus. Each time you achieve a short-term goal, your body celebrates by producing and releasing chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin oxytocin, and endorphins (feel-good neurotransmitters).

Ian Robertson, a cognitive neuroscientist and author of The Winner Effect: The Neuroscience of Success and Failure, says,

Success and failure shape us more powerfully than genetics and drugs.

The regular release of the body’s natural chemicals supports brain change at a neural level, building your confidence, and renewing your goal-oriented focus.

The Benefits of Setting Short-Term Goals

Regardless of the area in your life where you set your short-term goals, it will have a ripple effect across all your life domains.

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  • Improve your career prospects and your sense of identity also shifts.
  • Improve your body shape through managing food intake and your energy improves in a way that’s noticeable at work and home.
  • Improve your mindset and your attitude changes around how you engage with others.
  • Improve your health and your desire for self-improvement lifts.

6 Steps to Success With Short-Term Goals

Setting short-term goals will lead you closer to a happier and more successful life, but can you achieve that?

Take the following steps and you will start achieving your dreams:[2]

Step 1: Know Your Best Hopes

Try this process yourself by thinking of an area in your life that you’d like to improve.

For example:

  • What are your best hopes for your finances?
  • What are your best hopes for your relationship?
  • What are your best hopes for your career?
  • What are your best hopes for your health?

This process involves ‘chunking up’ your ideas to imagine the results more clearly. In this process, you try to achieve not only the goal and the outcome it gives you but also the changes in your behavior and mindset as a result of achieving your goal.

Step 2: Notice What’s Different

The next question to ask yourself is: “What would you notice that was different from the way you usually did things?”

‘Noticing’ helps you build a vision of what could be possible. The richer the description you can build around the tiny details, the more ‘real’ your preferred future becomes.

Step 3: Ask: ‘What Else?’

Most of us know there’s a hidden reason or a long-buried hope beneath why we want something.

Often, our ego gets a little defensive about it and protective of it. But if we dig and resurface the truth, then weight can be lifted, allowing you the freedom to move forward.

Step 4: Ask: ‘Who Will Notice the Difference?’

Relationships with family, friends, colleagues, and your partner are important. Seeing the change they’ll notice helps put another perspective on the differences they see in you.

Imagine what they will notice about you that would let them know something changed about you as a result of achieving this goal.

Step 5: Imagine a Miracle Happened Tonight

Imagine that if you went to bed tonight and a miracle happened; and you were the very best version of yourself and that you had achieved your best hopes.

When you woke up tomorrow morning after the miracle happened, what would you notice that would tell you you’ve achieved the change you’re seeking?

Step 6: Describe Your Day as If the Miracle Had Happened

Go through your day, moment by moment. Begin with what time you would wake up and then describe the differences you would notice in every tiny action you do.

Notice in detail what’s different about this day – a day when you are at your very best because you’re living your best hopes.

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How to Track Your Short Term Goals Success

When you set a short-term goal, establish a measurement system to track your progress:[3]

1. Create a Running Tally

One of the best devices to keep your short-term goal setting on track is to keep a running record or tally of the number of days in a row that you’ve sustained your goal.

For example, if improving your health is important to you and you plan to reduce your weight by 5 kilos by not eating any foods containing sugar, then set up a simple chart and track how many days in a row you can do this. Aim for 5 days, then 10, then 20 days in a row. If you have a small diversion and eat sugar one day, simply start again.

Once you feel confident that you can continue with this step, add another such as taking 5,000 steps per day. Again, set up a simple tally chart either in your diary or somewhere visible and enjoy marking up one more day that you’ve achieved your short-term goal. It won’t be long before your goal of losing 5 kilos is met.

2. Keep a Journal

Maintaining a journal will help you focus on identifying the things that are different because you’ve set a well-formed short-term goal.

Aim to complete the journal at the end of each day and recall in detail the things that you’re noticing. This helps keep you connected with your desired outcome and the transformation you’re experiencing in both your behavior and mindset.

Take a look at this guide if you’re starting out journaling: Writing Journal for a Better and More Productive Self (The How-To Guide).

3. Share Your Progress With a Trusted Friend or Coach

By voicing the change and expressing how far you’re noticing yourself move towards your goal, you’re reinforcing the power of change you’re experiencing.

And you’ll be activating the feel-good neurotransmitters that are so important for bringing your confidence, motivation, and positive changes to your brain to succeed.

Here’re more reasons why you should get yourself a life coach: 7 Reasons Why You Should Find a Life Coach to Reach Your Full Potential.

4. Visualize Your Progress

Before you go to sleep in the evening, visualize your tomorrow. See yourself continuing to do the things that support your change.

Walk yourself through the tiny details that add up to the changes you want to see yourself doing, including the time you’ll wake up. In the morning, re-activate the visualization and then ‘step into’ your day.

Short-Term Goal Example: A Career Short-Term Goal

How to advance your career with short-term goals? Specifically, you will need short-term goals to help with your career. This is also how many people want to utilize short-term goals.

Start by Planning Your Career Visually

Walt Disney was sacked for lacking imagination. Oprah Winfrey was told she’d never make it on television. Careers are destroyed by naysayers intent on keeping you small. The successful person designs a career goal and then creates incremental steps to ‘ladder up’ with short-term goals.

Justin Dry from VinoMofo, a successful Australian wine distribution company, always begins his goal-setting process with visual planning. He says,

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I need to see it all in front of me like a puzzle I’m putting together. It kind of looks like the workings of a madman with lots of weird and wonderful shapes and lines connecting the words.

Whether you use masses of post-it notes that cover a wall, large sheets of paper to spread your ideas on or a journal to map your path – messy planning gets your ideas out of your head so you see different possibilities and pathways available to you.

Begin this process by asking, “What are my best hopes for my career?”

Write them down and place them somewhere you’ll notice them every day.

Make You Think Like a Start-Up Entrepreneur

While successful career planning starts with a messy and random process to let those ‘idea gems’ – the embryos of well-formed short-term goals rise, the next step is taking these nuggets and using them to set your direction.

Think of yourself (and your career) as if you’re the CEO of your successful start-up – one with a clear vision of what you want and how you’ll get it. Rather than waiting for a boss to give you goals, be proactive, and set your own.

Karen Lawson, CEO of Slingshot says,

Set a vision, and be focused on the intent of these goals. Create actions which not only build on those of yesterday but also improve what you do tomorrow. Your pathways will need to be flexible, challenged, and accountable.

Begin by listing the bigger steps needed to achieve your goal. Then chunk these down into smaller steps with specific actions needed to achieve them. These action steps are the workhorses of your short-term goals.

Create a specific time frame to complete them and maintain accountability – as if you’re reporting to your ‘higher up’.

Begin this process by asking yourself: “What difference will I notice when I take these steps?” Then ask: “What difference will my boss/es notice when I take these steps?”

Establish ‘Triggers’ for Your Daily Habits

Twyla Tharp (born 1941) legendary dancer and choreographer, maintains an exacting routine designed to trick her mind into a daily exercise habit.

I begin each day of my life with a ritual; I wake up at 5:30 A.M., put on my workout clothes, my leg warmers, my sweatshirts, and my hat. I walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron gym at 91st street and First Avenue, where I workout for two hours. The ritual is not the stretching and weight training I put my body through each morning at the gym; the ritual is the cab. The moment I tell the driver where to go I have completed the ritual.

It’s a simple act, but doing it the same way each morning habitualizes it — makes it repeatable, easy to do. It reduces the chance that I would skip it or do it differently. It is one more item in my arsenal of routines, and one less thing to think about.[4]

To do this list, create a trigger point – the smallest step you’ll do that will catapult you into taking action as Twyla Tharp did. What will be your ritual of ‘getting in the cab’?

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Get You to Talk About the Future

Melanie Perkins CEO of Canva, a thriving design and publishing solution, is known for ‘frequently talking about the future’.

Orienting your thoughts towards a future-focus reinforces how important your vision and goals are to you. Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said, “You are what you think.”

  • Make it a habit to read your goals daily.
  • Think about what you’ll notice that will be different in your life when you achieve them.
  • Express your goals to someone important in your life.
  • Whisper them to yourself throughout your day.

Future-focused conversations (both with yourself and others) establish a pattern of expectancy, which continue fueling not only your desire but also the expectation of achieving it.

Manage Mental Resistance

When you begin with ‘hope’, you activate a sense of ‘expectancy’. A belief that what you want is not only possible, it’s within reach. Hope and expectancy are two powerful motivators in propelling you forward to a successful life.

When you’re ‘moving forward‘ with hope, you’re orienting yourself towards your desired future. When ‘moving away from‘ something you perceive as painful you’re activating ‘fear’, which can also be a strong motivator helping you avoid pain; for example, losing your job if your quarterly performance scores don’t improve.

Sarah, a manager at a busy merchandising company saw her doctor because she was feeling tired. After a thorough examination, the doctor advised Sarah to lose 15 kilos as this was contributing to her tiredness. The news felt overwhelming as Sarah worked long hours and rarely found time to shop for fresh food, so she relied on fast food to keep her going.

For Sarah, the doctor activated her fear by describing what could happen (heart attack and/or diabetes) if she didn’t manage her weight by shedding 15 kilos.

While ‘moving away from’ motivation can be successful, a way of amplifying positive motivators that will see Sarah begin ‘moving towards’ her goal is by talking about what outcomes Sarah would notice by losing 15 kilos.

For example, managing her weight may see Sarah being more efficient at work, getting out more socially, or feeling more able to manage work pressures and deadlines.

To do this with your own goal setting, think about what’s important to you about achieving your goals. Write down your answers. Ask: “What will you notice that will be different in your life when these changes happen?”

Summing It Up

Change is possible. Short-term goals that build upon each other are the stepping stones to achieving your best hopes.

Using your creative imagination by noticing the small differences occurring daily offers a positive way to create practical change in an easy and doable way.

Above all, make sure your goal is powered by ‘passionate desire’ so you achieve your desired outcomes.

More Tips About Goals Setting

Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com

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