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Five Ways to Become a More Detail-Oriented Person

This past weekend my daughters and I headed to one of our favorite spots, The Great Swamp, located here in northern New Jersey.  We filled out a sheet of paper for the little one, trying our best to find spider webs, mushrooms and frogs.  It was an hour of unhurried bliss, completely attentive to every little detail of the Swamp.

Details are like that- they are really important and often overlooked.  If this blog post is filled with typos and errors, you probably wouldn't return for a second visit.  Worse yet, you might feel as if the effort going into the blog doesn't meet your standards.


We make these conclusions with people as well.  As it turns out, there are at least three things that interviewers notice in job candidates.  We meet someone and immediately form a judgement based on such small details as their clothing or tone of voice.  I once interviewed a man who was late, had dirt under his fingernails and hadn’t flossed in some time.  Needless to say, he wasn’t hired.  

I like this piece about the kinds of things that detail-oriented people notice, including:

  1. What people wear for clothing: i.e. a red tie implies strength.
  2. Body language: A strong handshake indicates confidence.
  3. Improper grammar: You want to build your vocabulary via more frequent reading.
  4. The big picture: Detailed people understand context and perspective.
  5. Patterns: i.e. “I have a pattern of getting along with my bosses”, etc.
  6. Things out of place: Detailed people recognize when a room is off-kilter or when a meeting is missing a key person.
  7. How much is left: Whether it’s time or money, detailed people have a good sense of “enough”.

These are the indicators of people who are detail-oriented but how do you develop that muscle?  I suggest five ways:

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  1. Get in touch with your faith.  Your relationship with God, cultivated over time, will enable you to be more heartfelt, more of a listener and more appreciative of your surroundings.  My faith in Christ (and I am happily Catholic) is not only the source of all I do but the engine behind noticing the many wonderful details around me.  The more often you can pray, the better.
  2. Get outside.  Nature is the best classroom for noticing details.  The more time you can spend outdoors, the better.
  3. Read more.  Authors are masters of inserting small details into otherwise complex storylines.  The more you can read, the better.
  4. Create a home with less noise.  Cary and I have four kids and lots of glowing devices, from iPhones to tablets.  Still, our kids know that certain times are meant to be quiet like during dinner or early in the morning.  The less noise, the better.
  5. Create a workspace with fewer interruptions.  I had the opportunity to interview Tim Metz whose company is dedicated to fewer interruptions at work.  The less interruptions, the better.

It’s worthwhile to try to be more intentional about who and what is around you.  Pay attention to them in every way.  In your daily journal writing, take note of your own personal details like how you are feeling, what makes you happy and what you're anxious about.  

Over time, simply by paying more attention, you'll start to notice even the smallest of details.  For whatever strange reason, I have an uncanny ability of noticing when someone gets a haircut.  I've learned how to compliment people on their haircut and they love it.  They love being noticed, just like you and me.

Emergent Leader Podcast Episode 15: Guest Interview with Mark Sanborn

Emergent Leader Podcast Episode 14: Interview with Tim Metz