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How you can develop attention-to-detail skills

You may think attention-to-detail is an ability you are just born with – but, in fact, attention-to-detail skills can be learnt by applying some simple techniques.

In this article we will define attention-to-detail – and explore how you can improve yours to impress employers.

'Attention-to-detail skills – how to improve and wow employers'

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What are attention-to-detail skills?

Attention-to-detail skills involve looking closely at your work to identify and correct errors, spot and improve weaknesses and produce a near-perfect end-result. Attention-to-detail means carrying out the task-in-hand thoroughly and with accuracy, working with consistent high-quality and avoiding sloppy mistakes.

A record of close attention-to-detail means your employer can trust you and the quality of your work. Having strong attention-to-detail doesn’t mean you will never make a mistake – you’re only human, after all! However, it does mean you can be confident that your work is top-quality and as error free as it is reasonable to expect.

There are plenty of techniques you can learn and apply in all your work to enhance your attention-to-detail.

Two students performing a science experiment
Attention-to-detail is useful across subjects - such as when conducting science experiments

Attention-to-detail at school

Attention-to-detail is important in your schoolwork. It allows your teachers to grade your attainment accurately and ensures you perform as well as possible in exams and coursework.

It is important across subjects. You might be writing an essay which requires close, careful argument and good English. Maybe you’re solving a maths problem which demands sound logical thinking and close examination of the information you have to hand. Or perhaps you’re carrying out an experiment in chemistry or field work in geography. All of these tasks require strong attention-to-detail.

How often does your teacher tell you to "check your work"? Thorough checking is one simple way to catch silly mistakes. It could make all the difference in an exam situation, where correcting errors may help you pick up a few extra marks and even push you over a grade boundary. It is important in coursework too, where a high degree of accuracy and care is expected. Practising checking your work over your school career will make this habit instinctive in higher education and at work.

Using attention-to-detail at work

Employers value employees with good attention-to-detail because they can be trusted to turn in high-quality and consistent work. But attention-to-detail is not just about checking your work. Good attention-to-detail also means you will spot important information when preparing for tasks or evaluating a work situation.

Here are some examples of attention-to-detail in the workplace:

  • Care worker: Must be attentive to their clients’ individual needs and look out for possible health problems which require attention by a medical professional.
  • How to become a civil engineer: Ensure plans meet safety regulations, match the specification and do not miss out important details.
  • Computer programmer: Computer algorithms must contain every step and instruction required to ensure the program runs smoothly.
  • Doctor: Picking up as many relevant symptoms and information – whether reported by the patient or not – is vital to making an accurate, speedy diagnosis and getting the patient treatment.
  • Editor: Must catch mistakes and inconsistencies in spelling, grammar and style.
  • Electrical, gas or water engineer: Evaluate and analyse systems, identifying faults or problems for safety and effectiveness.
  • Musician: Must be able to read sheet music carefully and expertly and play as part of a group or ensemble, sometimes sight-reading.
  • Social media manager: Social media managers have 280 characters to get their message across on Twitter, where typos or errors could cause embarrassment to their brand.

Techniques for improving your attention-to-detail skills

Attention-to-detail is a skill you can improve by practising specific techniques, including:

A clock on a desk
Sticking to schedule is one way to maintain attention-to-detail, as it gives you time to work through the tasks you planned
  • Active listening: When you are having a work conversation, give your full attention to what is being said and make notes afterwards so you don’t forget crucial details.
  • Do puzzles and games: Whether it’s a cryptic crossword, sudoku, board game or video game, gaming is a fun way to train our brains to look out for relevant details.
  • Double-checking: The simple technique of double-checking your work is an effective way of catching silly mistakes such as spelling or grammatical errors and logical missteps.
  • Manage your time: Starting work on time and sticking to a schedule reduces stress while working. Getting behind makes us cut corners and rush, leaving us more likely to make silly mistakes.
  • Minimise distractions: Focus and concentration is key to high-quality work. If you have trouble concentrating at work, you could try using headphones to block out background noise if permitted. If working from home, find a quiet place where you are unlikely to be disturbed as you work.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings: In your day-to-day life, try to pay attention to the details around you. Try repeating the same walk 3 days running and look out for 5 things that are different each time.
  • Planning ahead: Planning a task or project or even mapping out your day – instead of keeping everything in your head – reduces the chance of important details, steps or tasks being missed.
  • Put your phone away: Our phones are a major source of distraction and constantly checking for messages can reduce our attention span, so put yours away to help maintain concentration.
  • Take breaks: Don’t expect yourself to work solidly for hours on end – take 30-second breaks every 20 minutes and if you have a desk-based job, get up and walk around for a few minutes every hour.

Attention-to-detail is a soft skill. Check out our article on soft skills for more advice on ensuring you are appealing to employers.

Image credits

Science class by Thomas Tallis Photography via Flickr