How to Improve Your Attention to Detail
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated 14 June 2022
Published 20 May 2021
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Apart from your education, experiences and hard skills, employers will also pay attention to the soft skills you list on your CV. This is because success in the workplace entails more than technical acumen and specialised knowledge. Excelling in your job also requires soft skills, such as good teamwork and time management. Another soft skill that employers often mention in their job descriptions is attention to detail. In this article, we describe what attention to detail entails and provide a few tips that can help you improve this skill.
What is attention to detail?
Attention to detail is a skill that allows you to complete work tasks with thoroughness, accuracy and consistency. Paying attention to detail involves concentration and the ability to look closely at a subject or activity. It also involves spending adequate time working on individual tasks to ensure that you follow the relevant instructions and deliver error-free work. In short, when you pay attention to detail, you focus on producing quality work that relays the necessary information, as opposed to trying to finish as many tasks as possible in a short amount of time.
Why is attention to detail important in the workplace?
Attention to detail is a valued skill in the workplace. This is because managers and employees who have this skill are likely to make fewer mistakes. Employees who consistently produce error-free, high-quality work directly contribute to the success and profitability of a company. Firstly, providing suppliers, vendors and customers with professional, timely and error-free documentation and information improves relationships, builds a positive reputation for the company and speeds up business processes.
Secondly, employees who pay attention to detail typically require less supervision. Less supervision and error correction equal fewer overheads and increased productivity. Although some occupations, such as those that involve strict processes or deadlines, require a high level of attention to detail, it's a vital skill for any person who wishes to be successful in their career. Whether you're a secretary, pilot, lawyer or salesperson, the ability to pay attention to detail in the workplace will set you apart from the competition.
Gauging how good you are at paying attention to detail
If you're not sure how good you are at paying attention to detail, here are a few ways in which you can find out:
Personality questionnaire: Your personality can determine your tendency to pay attention to detail. Whereas some people naturally consider the bigger picture, others tend to focus on details. Completing a personality questionnaire can be informative if you're trying to gauge your ability to pay attention to detail. Conscientious people, for instance, tend to be more detail-oriented.
Skills assessment tests: You can also take a skills assessment tests to gauge whether you pay attention to detail. There is a wide range of skills assessment tests available. Whereas some, for instance, test technical ability, others provide information regarding your soft skills, including your level of attention to detail.
Your work performance: You can also judge from your work performance whether you pay attention to detail. If you're a person who tends to proofread your own work and rarely receive a request from a manager to revisit completed tasks, you likely do pay attention to detail. Also, if coworkers often ask you to check their work, or if you've been told you like to micromanage, you're probably a person who focuses on details.
Your habits and lifestyle: It may also be helpful to consider your habits and lifestyle. People who pay attention to detail tend to apply this skill in other aspects of their life besides at work. Although this is not always the case, people who pay attention to detail are often organised and tidy. They typically also like to plan things in advance and normally have fixed routines.
Related: What Is Aptitude?
How to improve your attention-to-detail skills
Although some people are naturally better than others at paying attention to detail, it's, fortunately, a skill that one can develop. Here are a few ways in which you can improve your attention to detail:
1. Limit distractions
It can be challenging to focus on a task and pay attention to detail when you're constantly distracted. Although you can't always avoid them, here are a few steps you can take to limit distractions in the workplace:
Inform your coworkers. Let the colleagues who sit next to you know that you need to focus for a while and will not be able to chat.
Put on your headphones. Try to listen to ambient music or white noise using headphones. It's an effective way to block out the office banter and other distracting sounds, and also signals to others that you're not currently available.
Put your phone on silent and place it out of sight. Constantly picking up your phone to check for messages and access social media sites directs your attention away from the task at hand.
Close your mail application on your computer. Try to avoid checking emails while you work and disable all notifications for a while. In most instances, it should be fine if you don't respond to incoming mail immediately.
2. Take regular breaks
Taking regular short breaks during the workday is beneficial for your performance. Although every person's concentration span is different, you should consider taking a break every hour or 90 minutes. Short breaks of 10 to 15 minutes are long enough for your brain to consolidate and retain new information. These breaks also provide you with a chance to get out of the sitting position for a while and stretch your limbs, which is beneficial for your health and posture.
3. Get organised
It's much easier to pay sufficient attention to important tasks when you're organised. For instance, uncluttering your work desk, maintaining a filing system for your work documents and ensuring that you have access to relevant resources can free up valuable time and energy. Other ways in which you can organise yourself include:
Use a diary to plan your workdays ahead of time. You can write down to-do lists, important meetings and things to remember, and tick off tasks as you complete them.
Keeping track of important meetings and appointments by marking them on a calendar. You can either use a real calendar or the electronic versions on your mobile or computer.
Maintaining a detailed schedule where you indicate the allotted time for specific tasks. By doing adequate planning with regard to how long you plan to spend on tasks, you can ensure that you'll have enough time to pay sufficient attention and produce quality work.
4. Make healthy lifestyle choices
Making healthy lifestyle choices can be helpful when you're trying to improve your concentration and general work performance. You can improve your mood, brain function and energy levels by getting enough sleep, exercising regularly and maintaining a balanced and healthy diet. For instance, dietitians and nutritionists recommend green, leafy vegetables and fatty fish for improved brainpower. In addition, a healthy diet also prevents lifestyle-related issues like diabetes or heart disease. It's much easier to concentrate on a task and focus on details when your mind is sharp and your body is free of pain or discomfort.
5. Try to avoid multitasking
Although some people may view multitasking as the ability to focus on multiple tasks concurrently, it actually involves quickly switching between tasks. The ability to multitask may be beneficial in situations where you're busy with multiple easy and quick tasks, such as signing a delivery form, showing a colleague a function in Excel and quickly answering the phone to confirm a meeting.
However, multitasking can be counterproductive in instances where you need to focus and pay attention to detail. When you're constantly switching between tasks, it becomes more challenging to organise your thoughts and filter out irrelevant information. If you need to produce quality work that requires attention to detail, you'll achieve quicker and better results by focusing on one task at a time.
6. Take a few minutes daily to meditate
To focus and pay attention to detail, you need to be calm and present in the moment. Practising meditation for only 10 minutes a day will alleviate anxiety, help you cope with stress and improve your concentration. The deep breathing that accompanies meditation increases the flow of oxygen to the brain and calms the nervous system, which in turn allows you to focus and think clearly.
If you meditate often, you become more conscious and in control of your thoughts, and learn to breathe more deeply throughout the day. These beneficial habits can help you to recover from distractions more easily and refocus your thoughts on the task that you're busy with.
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