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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

Reference

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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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13 Critical Things to Consider Before Switching Careers

13 Critical Things to Consider Before Switching Careers

Do you have a path not taken? Maybe you had big career dreams when you were younger, but somehow they didn’t materialize.

Maybe you took your first job, thinking it would be a stepping stone to a better job. It seemed like a good idea at the time, you recall, except the better job never came along. Or perhaps, saddled with student loans, you took a job that helped you pay them off. You paid them all right, but now you feel stuck in a career you don’t really like.

The average person spends 90,000 hours in their lifetime at work[1]. That’s too much time to be doing anything you don’t love!

Is it time to think about switching careers? Here are 13 things to do when making the big leap.

Diagnose Your Current Work Situation

Before switching careers, it’s important to figure out why you’re currently unhappy so you don’t step into another situation that isn’t right for you. Start with these considerations before making any big decisions.

1. What Are You Passionate About?

It’s somewhat shocking, but research shows 87 percent of workers have no passion for their jobs[2]. Passion can be measured many ways, and one person’s passion is another’s poison. Still, if you believe in your company’s core mission, it really helps.

How can you find your passion? You may have to switch careers. Try to arrange informational interviews with as many people as you can who work in the field of your dreams to be certain that making the switch will make you feel more engaged with your work.

Your aim: To be as happy walking into the office on Monday morning as you are leaving the premises on Friday afternoon. When you love your job, no day feels too daunting. When you love your job, it doesn’t feel like work.

Need a little help finding your passion? This article can help: How to Find Your Passion and Live a Fulfilling Life

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2. Can You Keep up With Technology?

Are you keeping up with it? And is your current company supporting your efforts? The speed of technology is so fast that many companies today can’t keep up. This may result in anxiety among the company’s leadership. The sense of anxiety can filter down and impact the workers. Morale is low, and everyone fears for their job.

When switching careers, try to find a company that will allow you to learn as you grow. It also helps to consider yourself a lifelong learner. These days, we all have to be.

Invest the Time to Dream Big

If you’re now sure of why you want to make a move, it’s time to dig into your dreams to find exactly which direction to go.

3. What Does Your Vision Look Like?

Athletes visualize their signature moves. Politicians fantasize about winning. Your task is to visualize your dream. Where do want to be working five years from now? Ten years from now? Fifteen years from now? Figure out what your titles will be at each point along your new trajectory. Will you be living in your current geographical area or will you have moved?

Ask yourself the hard questions as well. Can you afford to switch careers right now? Will you be making more money or less than you currently do? How will you support those who depend on you?

Once you have your vision clearly committed to paper, run your vision by a few of the people who know you best. Do your friends encourage you to pursue your vision? (If they don’t, consider finding more supportive friends.)

4. Do You Know What to Expect?

It’s harder to switch careers than to find a new job in your current field. You may have to accomplish the move in several discreet steps. Will making a lateral move at your current company take you one step closer to your ultimate goal?

In addition to researching your dream field online, try to surround yourself with some friends who have recently switched careers. After you have formed a rough idea of the steps you will need to take to get from where you are now to your new career, consider committing it to an action plan. The more concrete you can make your Plan, the better.

Should you be attending more networking events? Do you need to burnish your online profile? Commit to action steps, and then put those steps into your daily calendar. You’re going to do this!

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If, for instance, you’ve decided to move from marriage counseling to financial planning — you’ve seen enough divorces resulting from money matters to know there’s a better way to help people — your listening skills and discretion will be an asset. Your research will reveal whether you need specialized training or licensing to qualify. If so, go online and add your name to every list you can find to learn more information. Start calculating how to pay for your courses. A bonus you’ll get with continuing ed courses: you’ll gain access to a strong peer network.

Take Action

Time to make the move. Start considering how you will approach these steps to get where you want to go.

5. Who Will Support You?

What if, early in your career, you made a job switch that you regret? Now is the time to call your ex-boss and try to get together for lunch or a cup of coffee. Let them know you are thinking of making a U-turn back to your former field.

What if your sister disapproves of every idea you have? Either resolve to avoid her for the next 12 months or call her right now — and tell her you’re switching careers and you don’t care whether she approves! Keep all naysayers at a distance during this transition time.

6. What Can You Do Each Day to Accomplish Your Dream?

Switching careers can be quite time-consuming, but if you break down the task into small chunks, tracking your progress as you go, you’ll have a better chance of success. Whether you spend a few hours today googling your dream career, or refurbish your LinkedIn profile to emphasize the skills you have that will help you land this new job — just keep at it.

Career-switcher’s hint: Working on your new dream for one hour each day is more productive than spending 12 hours working at it on a Sunday. The more committed you are to achieving your goal, the faster it will happen.

7. Does Your Resume Highlight the Correct Skills?

First, research the qualifications of the position you hope to land. Then, look for ways to mesh them with your own skills. While some careers require specific degrees and credentials, there are many positions you can transition into that require no additional education. Sometimes, what you bring from your own background is perfect.

Take inventory of all the hard and soft job skills you possess. For the skills you don’t have, put a plan in place to acquire them!

Highlight your qualifications in a way that makes a well-argued case for your compatibility with the organization and the position you’re after. Keep in mind that all employers look for candidates with skills that show leadership and the ability to solve problems, persevere through challenges, and get results.

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Refine the skills on your resume to incorporate these resume “musts.” Make sure, though, to only claim skills you truly possess. Unless you’re proficient in a software program or are fluent in a second language, leave any mention of them off.

Switching Careers Shortcuts

When switching careers, there are ways to make it easier. Look into these questions to see what can work for you in your search.

8. Do You Have Any Contacts in Your Desired Career?

People are remarkably forthcoming on their LinkedIn profiles. This helps when you search out employees in your dream field or a targeted company. But before you take full advantage of online networking, first make sure that your profile content is fresh.

Curate all social media accounts to reflect your new direction. Social media can increase your networking opportunities exponentially. Comment on the posts of your targeted contacts and pose pertinent questions to get on their radar.

9. Are You Networking Enough?

While it may be considered old-school to tap your organically grown (offline) network, it still comes with the best odds of success. Reach out to your friends and acquaintances with industry connections who can help you make a connection.

Make a point of meeting face-to-face with anyone who can offer you a lead or provide a reference. You never know what kind of opportunity will unfold from these offline connections.

Learn more about networking here: How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life

10. How Can You Become an Expert in Your New Field?

Start building the skills you’ll need to make your career switch. LinkedIn and many other providers offer online courses in everything from accounting software to mastering Excel. For extra credit, see if you can find classes that award online badges for completing each course. Don’t be shy about adding these certificates to your online profile.

Read trade magazines and study up on industry trends. Write and post articles on timely topics. Develop an online presence in the field of your dreams.

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11. Are You Willing to Put Yourself out There?

Nonprofit organizations often look for volunteers to help them with their outreach, social media, fundraising, and more. Once you’ve mastered the needed skills, be sure to have the head of the organization or a board member write a glowing recommendation for you.

Depending on your desired career, it may be possible to take on a contract assignment at a company where you learn on the job. A freelance gig allows you to polish your skills, make connections, and prove you’re serious about this career change.

For example, if your dream is to transform your knack for attracting followers through pithy postings into a career as a social media manager, don’t be afraid to pitch your services. Most companies need someone to manage their online presence and may welcome your fresh new strategy.

Switching Careers Results

Now that you’ve taken the steps to switch careers, bask in the success you’ve found in doing so.

12. How Can You Reward Yourself?

Set whatever benchmarks you need to achieve as you embark on switching careers, and think of them as cause for mini-celebrations. Find frugal ways to reward yourself.

However, hold out for the big, pop-the-champagne celebration until you land your dream job.

13. Has the Risk Paid Off?

People who prefer to play it safe throughout their careers often fall short of their potential. Research shows the primary reason executives derail is an inability to change[3]. It takes a large measure of courage to pursue a new path. And when you succeed, it fuels your confidence.

You have an air of self-assurance about you and a can-do spirit that stands out. And best of all, you’ll have moved from a dead-end or lackluster job to one into which you can pour your passion and realize the feeling of self-fulfillment.

The Bottom Line

Don’t be afraid to switch your career path once you’ve outgrown the one you’re in. Set out to intentionally pursue career satisfaction and you’ll reap great rewards by realizing the joys of job satisfaction.

More Tips on Switching Careers

Featured photo credit: Kevin Bhagat via unsplash.com

Reference

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