Do some of the finer details about your job and personal life escape you? Are there some things that you seem to continue to overlook? You're likely frustrated by not being able to get everything right, especially the simple things.

It could be that what's affecting you is a lack of attention to detail. It's not that you want to overlook things. It's probably that the details just slip your mind at the moment.

The great news is that it's possible to increase your attention to detail so not as many things slip your mind at inopportune times.

Of course, no single strategy will work for everyone.  That said, in many cases, developing these four simple strategies can help with ensuring greater attention to detail:

1. Start with a checklist. Perhaps one of the easiest ways to ensure all details are captured is to make a checklist. Ideally, have your list ready before you begin a task. 

  • Once you're done, go back to the checklist to ensure that all items listed have been accomplished.
  • In some cases, you may need to make a hand-written list. In other cases, you can simply commit the items to memory. You can even use apps on your smartphone to make lists.
  • Do you keep forgetting which days your daughter has after school clubs?  You may want to permanently place a list of events on the fridge.

2. Put yourself in the other person's shoes. Let's say you have a new project at work. You feel like you have a pretty good handle on what's required. But at the end of it, your boss points out four or five things you overlooked. How do you prevent it from happening again?

  • Think of the project from your boss's point of view. If you were them, what would you be looking for?
  • Look at your work objectively. Walk away for a little while. Then, take a truly unbiased look at what you've done and consider whether you've accomplished the goal.
  • Devise a visual way of organising future projects. For example, you could use a bulletin board and post-it notes to identify each step of the project so no detail is bypassed.

3. Use a mnemonic device to remember certain details. A mnemonic device is a way to learn and remember information. Sometimes people make up a word, silly phrase, or short poem so their brain remembers some piece of information. 

  • One common mnemonic device taught to students across the pond from us, in North America, us used to memorise the continent's Great Lakes. It's to take the first letter of each lake and create the word "HOMES" (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior). 
  • Using effective memory strategies can be a huge help in remembering details in your personal life as well. 
  • Do you have difficulty remembering whether your best friend likes chocolate or strawberry ice cream? You can make up a funny sentence with your friend's name and the flavour they love. 
  • For example, Sara loves strawberry ice cream. Sara and strawberry both start with the letter "s" so it's easy to remember.  Just don't accidentally write to Sarah Strawberry.

4. Commit tasks to conscious memory. For the more routine responsibilities, it's a good idea to reaffirm their importance to you. By taking the time to drill them into your consciousness, it's easier to remember them.

  • It could be as simple as getting ready for work in the morning. Are all the steps important? Have you gone through your personal routines? What about your pills?
  • Let's say you're preparing a speech to promote new products. What does the audience need to hear? Do you believe in the products? Reaffirm their importance so it's easier to sell your conviction.

Learning how to pay attention to detail is an ongoing exercise, even for detail-focused people! Every time you start something else, you're responsible for concentrating on what's important. Then you need to ensure those details are remembered.

As we've said, this doesn't work for everyone.  But it might work for you.  After you get into the habit of practicing these four techniques, you could find that you're more successful at remembering details. 

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4th April 2022

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Please note that articles are correct at the time of initial publication but are not usually updated.