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How To Avoid Comparing At Work

How To Avoid Comparing At Work

We all do it – we snoop at the lives of celebrities, at the holidays of our friends, at the incomes at our loved ones,’ and to be honest, a lot of the time the green-eyed monster is at play, ensuring we feel especially negative about our own behavior and situation. This particularly strikes in the workplace where we often struggle to avoid comparing our work skills, abilities and goals, as well as how far we’ve come in comparison to our co-workers, often leading to a mental game of one-up-manship that satisfies no one.

So, if you’re stuck in this vicious cycle of jealousy, comparison and negativity, check out seven of our best tips for to how to avoid comparing at work, and begin to break the pattern of negative comparison with our advice for the workplace.

1. Be clear about what you want.

We go to work to earn money to live, but we also go to work to help fulfill a vision of what we want in our head. Our specific goals, dreams and aims. All of these can be extremely useful in the fight to avoid comparing at work. Your work and your journey are all that you should focus on, not if those dreams stack up compared to your co-workers.

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Keep your vision clear about what you want out of work and out of life. Make a vision board; write it all down; keep a journal; or whatever you need to keep moving forward. Make sure you break things down into manageable areas so you can actively work towards them, but always keep your eyes on the work horizon so you can keep moving forward and avoid comparing at work. As the indomitable Eric Taylor from “Friday Night Lights” once stated, ‘Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.’ A better sentiment can’t be formed, really.

2. Be humble and grateful.

You can never go wrong with being grateful and humble for your life. It’s always a sure-fire to help you avoid comparing at work. No one likes a bragger or a show-off at work and let’s be honest in this economy, it’s pretty fantastic to have a job at all, given the still-large unemployment rates around the world following the recent economic downturn and recession. Being humble and grateful is a solid way towards avoiding comparing at work.

Be thankful for the job you have, even if it’s one you don’t particularly want at the moment, and let that shine by working hard and focusing. You can make something positive out of almost every situation, and staying humble, staying ambitious and staying grateful for all you have right now, is one of the most effective ways in avoiding and resenting your co-workers.

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3. Become friends with co-workers.

There’s an old saying about keeping friends close and enemies closer; but I prefer the one that talks about trying to be friends with everyone. After all, how can you compare and compete with someone you consider a friend? Friendly, helpful, supportive rivalry is one thing, but actively electing to put you and your co-workers at odds with each other is not only stupid, it’s destructive and detrimental to your career.

Strike up conversations with co-workers, talk and discuss work – but not only work – and just generally be a fun and positive person to be around. Why? If you want to avoid comparing yourself to those around you, building up these positive relationships makes it significantly more likely that you’ll be happy for them when they succeed and you’ll have a supportive, warm network around you for those achievements and those failures. Plus, helping and supporting each other is what we should all be doing anyway, right? Making more friends rarely has a downside, so go ahead and head for the water cooler with your cubicle mate.

4. Have a great ‘outside’ life.

One of the most vital things you can do to avoid comparing at work, is to have a full and varied life outside of the office. Jobs can too often dominate our waking thoughts and processes and extend into all aspects of our lives. The resolution to all this is to make sure that when you step out of those doors, you’ve got a vibrant and exciting life waiting for you.

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I’m not suggesting everyone goes out dancing and skydiving every night – I’m a classic introvert so that sounds exhausting to me – but have plans that make you excited, happy and fulfill you somehow. Take an art class, go on dates, have a pajamas-and-Netflix party with your best friends, do whatever you like but ensure that you’re doing it for you and you’ll avoid comparing at work all that much more.

5. Take on side projects.

Known as the ‘side hustle,’ taking on extra, side projects can be both fulfilling and a fantastic way to avoid comparing at work. You and your co-workers might be closer than you are to your actual neighbours at times, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow the same paths together and achieve the same milestones. Point in fact, you can always look to new side projects and extra work and responsibilities to help avoid comparing at work.

If you see a project or an avenue at work you’re interested in, then go ahead and sign up for some fun extra duties that will not only enhance your resume, but also ensure that you get to do interesting stuff outside of your assigned duties. You might even build up a bit of a speciality which is sure to set you apart from your co-workers and help stop you comparing at work. After all, we all have our different paths and journeys.

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6. Appreciate your unique standing.

You are completely unique in the workplace, even if you’re one of a hundred people doing your job. To avoid comparing at work, remember that no one has your unique blend of experiences, histories, and personal position. It might seem like you’re just one little cog in the workforce machine, but let’s face it, the chances of someone having the same experiences, opinions, views and judgement as you is not only unlikely, it’s nearly impossible.

To stop avoid comparing at work, acknowledge your position in the workplace and what you can uniquely bring to your job. You have unique abilities that cannot be replicated and rather than comparing yourself to your co-worker who might excel in one area that you aren’t so good at (spreadsheets, emails, interpersonal skills and so forth), focus on what you can bring to the role and what you can do to bring that to the front of your job performance.

7. Keep working on those work goals.

Keep working, working, working, on yourself. We all have work goals – or at least we should – and working towards them alongside the course of our job is something we should always aspire, something that should always take the place of comparing yourself at work. Just as every person is different, the goals we set ourselves are different. Our aims differ, but they are always our own. We all have our Mount Everest to climb, whether or not the tracks are similar to our co-workers.

Make a big list of the goals you want to achieve and the ones you already have done – put them in straight lines, in shaded bubbles, in brightly-colored Post-Its where you can see them. Cross off the ones you’ve already achieved and put them all somewhere you see everyday like a planner or a diary, so you can keep working towards them, slowly but surely, and always with a view to looking ahead to the future.

Remember that the key to avoid comparing at work is simply to stop comparing your journeys and focus on your goals and your career without thinking negatively about others’ paths.

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Chris Haigh

Writer, baker, co-host of "Good Evening Podcast" and "North By Nerdwest".

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Published on January 7, 2021

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

Some people see the trees for the forest, and some see only the forest, meaning they lack strong attention to detail. But even if you’re one of the people who take a macro rather than a micro view, true professionalism requires balancing both.

If focusing on the fine points is not your forte, you will benefit from training yourself to pay attention to details. You will profit by saving yourself time, effort, money, and credibility.

Why Training Yourself in Attention to Details Pays Off

You add value to your organization when you make the effort to ensure that you performed your work thoroughly and effectively. This is why job postings often list “attention to details” among the required skills.

When you present your supervisor or client with well-completed, high-quality work the first time, it maximizes your value and minimizes wasted time. Detail-oriented people are also more adept at catching mistakes that could lead to costly blunders.

Moreover, attention to detail is an indicator of possessing other in-demand employee qualities, such as organization, thoroughness, and focus. In some professions, such as accounting, engineering, medical research, and more, you can only excel if you have trained yourself to pay attention to details.

In other professions, possessing strong attention to detail is the very quality that will get you promoted to a position where you will be asked to consider the big picture.

Finally, if you are the “go-to” details person, everyone else on the team can relax a bit. They know the project is in good hands and will likely throw you more projects as a reward. This will ultimately lead to your advancement.

3 Important Aspects of Becoming More Detail-Oriented

Here are the 3 important things you need to learn if you want to remedy your lack of attention to detail:

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  1. Respect deadlines
  2. Understand the work-flow plan
  3. Build in time to mess up

1. Respect Deadlines

Deadlines lend all projects a finish line. One smart idea is to take the given deadline and work backward from it, calculating when your piece of the project is due. Then, if you stick to the proscribed schedule for completing the mini-projects that you have, you will never miss a deadline.

One important note on this: It is smarter to stick to the deadline and turn in work that merits a “B+” than to blow the deadline with “A” work. Chances are, through revision and suggested changes from others on the team, you can bring up your B+ work to an A later. But if you disregard deadlines, you will lose the respect of your boss and fellow teammates.

2. Understand the Work-Flow Plan

Your team is developing work in conjunction with other teams who have projects and deadlines of their own. When you grasp the whole work-flow plan, you may be able to either add insight to the greater project or to your own smaller piece of it that others at the firm will consider valuable.

3. Build in Time to Mess Up

You can expect that “what can go wrong will go wrong.” Don’t overpromise on deadlines. Something likely will mess up, but when it does if you built in the time to fix it, those around you won’t freak out.

Chances are, you already give your attention to several details. Take heart. You can do this! You can overcome your lack of attention to detail and become more detail-oriented.

For starters, consider this: Most people take the time and put in extra effort into the activities or undertakings that matter to them most. Training yourself to become more detail-oriented can mean adopting a similar pattern of behavior.

Apply the same attention you give to your appearance. Are you a meticulous dresser? Do you pay attention to how you pair patterns and colors, and how you accessorize a particular outfit?

This is the same system to use when you lack attention to detail with your work. Give every item careful consideration so that each one contributes to the perfectly pieced-together whole.

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Assemble the ingredients the way you do when you cook. Cooking and baking from scratch require close attention to details as you measure and add each ingredient in sequence, and you time everything so that the meal comes together at the same time.

Similarly, your work product requires you to gauge whether all the ingredients have been added and that your final product is delivered on time.

Organize your business network like you do your social contacts. If you follow a broad base of friends and acquaintances on social media, you can apply similar skills to stay up-to-date on details associated with business acquaintances.

When you meet somebody who could be influential to your career or a resource for improving your skills, follow that person on social media. Respond to their posts to keep the lines of communication flowing.

12 Tips to Help You if You Lack Attention to Detail

Teaching yourself to take note of important details involves sharpening your perceptions and thinking ahead. The following tips will help you adopt these practices. Master these habits when training yourself to become detail-oriented.

1. Learn to Listen Well

You will pick up relevant information and needed nuance when you apply the skills of active listening. In conversations, train yourself to make eye contact, give your undivided attention to the speaker, and ask pertinent follow-up questions.

Training yourself to pay better attention to details in conversations includes learning to fully concentrate on what others have to say. If you find it hard, there’s no harm in taking notes on what they say.

2. Pay Attention to Social Cues

Make a point of noticing body language and facial expressions that provide insights into how others perceive a situation. Social cues offer details that give you an understanding of how words and actions impact others. The infamous character Michael Scott of the television show “The Office” epitomizes the consequences of not paying attention to others’ body language.[1]

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3. Follow Rules

Rules and protocols usually come about from lessons learned and are put in place to avoid further mishaps—whether from a safety or efficiency standpoint. If you’re given step-by-step procedures to follow, check them off as you go. Also, return to the rules at the project’s end just to make sure you adhered to them all.

4. Take Notes

Note-taking is a way to boost your retention and gives you something to refer back to when you need to keep track of pertinent details. You will also heighten your focus as you listen for relevant information. Review your notes shortly after the meeting or conversation and highlight the content that you intend to apply.

5. Prioritize What Needs Your Attention Now

When you have a full slate of work that demands your attention, take a few moments to sort assignments from most to least urgent. Keep a calendar, spreadsheet, or project planning software up-to-date with schedules and deadlines to help you stay organized.

As you tackle each urgent assignment, give it your full attention so no details are missed. Give yourself ample time—especially if you tend to be someone who waits until the last minute—as rushing can make you overlook important details.

6. Have a Detail-Oriented Assistant Check Your Work

If you lack attention to detail, then it makes sense to seek help from someone detail-oriented. If you have this option, take advantage of it. Two sets of eyes are better than one. Just be sure to credit your assistant for their help once the project is completed.

7. Learn the Rules of Writing Well

English is a difficult language, and grammar, punctuation, and spelling can all sabotage you unless you pay attention to detail. When in doubt, look it up. Free to use website services such as Grammarly can help.

8. Proofread Before You Hit Send

Nothing is perfect in its first draft. If you lack attention to detail, then put in the extra effort before submitting things. Before you send off any written work, check carefully not only for misspellings and incomplete sentences but also for improper tone, inappropriate colloquialisms, and inconsistent formatting. When your written communications are error-free, they will have their intended impact.

9. Minimize Distractions

It is impossible to stay focused when colleagues carry on conversations nearby or your mobile notifications ding you throughout the day. Do your best to limit distractions.

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If you are working where there is a lot of noise or side activity, try wearing noise-canceling headphones or seeking out a quiet corner. Disable your notifications when you need to focus, and resolve to only check them after you have completed your assignment.

10. Take Breaks

It may sound counter-intuitive to stop and take a walk, but it’s necessary. Walk away from the screen. Moving from one task to the next across the span of your workday is a recipe for brain fatigue. Give your brain a recess time when you come to a natural stopping place or after you complete one project and before you start the next. These short pauses are necessary for sorting through all the details needed for coming up with successful solutions.

11. Make Time for Reflection

At the end of a workday, take a few minutes to go over the day’s events in your mind. What was said or relayed in conversations? What is the status of the projects you worked on? What else occurred that you should pay attention to? Could there have been any details you might have missed that you should address tomorrow?

12. Keep a Detailed To-Do List

This simple organizational tool is your best ally for getting your work done on time and for paying attention to the details. If you are pressed for time (and who isn’t?), write your list to coordinate with dayparts.

Allot a certain number of hours to complete each task, do it, and then check it off. Nothing feels more rewarding than completing all the tasks on your list. But if you can’t finish them, then carry them over to the following day.

Final Thoughts

Details may seem small, but they can become a lot larger when they are overlooked. If you know you lack attention to detail, commit to training yourself to embrace the many facets that can help you consistently excel in the tasks you set out to accomplish.

When you begin to catch your mistakes in advance or apply the tidbits of information you gathered from paying close attention, you will know that you have trained yourself in the fundamentals of becoming detail-oriented. After that, you should start hearing the phrase “Great job!” more often.

More Tips on Boosting Your Attention to Detail

Featured photo credit: Cristina Gottardi via unsplash.com

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