Ever since you were a child, you must have heard your parents asking you to pay attention. Whether it is about your studies or general things around you, you have always been told to be detail-oriented. While it may have felt annoying sometimes, we know the truth now. All of that constant ‘pressure’ was only to shape our minds to enhance our observation toward the world around us.
An important situation when our being detail-oriented help is at the workplace. Most of you have been through job vacancy ads on different portals – print and online. A common thing in most of these advertisements is that almost all organizations seek a ‘detail-oriented’ person. A recent study showed that over 62 percent of employers seek this attribute in their current and prospective employees.
But, is this something you are born with? Or, can you learn to develop your observation skills overtime?
What is Detail Orientation?
In simple words, a detail orientation is what allows you to pay close attention to detail in everything you do. It could be a task at hand, an important project, or a significant presentation preparation. No matter what they need to do they can perform their duties with extreme concentration and focus.
A detail-oriented person is one who can pay exclusive attention to their work. They can do this without losing concentration. Also, when dealt with complicated tasks or difficult situations, they can evaluate every crucial detail of the problem. They are able to resolve it once and for all before moving to the next task.
People with such a personality prefer having everything in control and order. The slightest disruption in the natural order of things can cause them great discomfort. Exactitude, meticulousness, organization, and neatness are some of the values a detail-oriented person lives by.
Why Do You Need to Be Detail-Oriented?
Of course, it is. No matter what your profession is, if you aren’t able to focus completely on your job, you will not succeed. Chances are that the superiors will notice you lagging at your work and may feel the need to demote or replace you.
On the other hand, if you are observant and detail-oriented, you have greater chances of succeeding in your role. This also means positive feedback and possible appraisals and promotions.
If your work involves scientific studies, detailed researches, hospital care, numbers, or programming, this attribute becomes all the more important. This is because the outcome of your work will be the basis of something innovative. For instance, if you worked as an accountant or a financial analyst, one small mistake or misrepresentation of a single number can make a huge difference to the end report. It may even lead your firm to incur heavy losses.
It is important to understand that even the most detail-oriented person can sometimes miss a clue here and there. That doesn’t mean that they are any less focused or inefficient.
It just means that probably they are new to it. A focused person never makes the same mistake twice because they learn from the first time and can see through things clearly in the future.
7 Character Traits of Detail-Oriented People
Detail-oriented people are different from those who lack focus. To begin with, they are extremely particular and observant. There is barely a detail that escapes their attention. Having mentioned this, let us look at some of the traits only such highly focused people possess.
1. They observe body language
While there is not an exact number yet, several types of research have shown that around 80% of our communication is based on our body language. Whether we are happy or sad, confident or nervous, our body language almost always indicates our state of mind before our words do.
Detail-oriented people notice the minutest aspects around them. They closely follow how people around them are behaving and carrying themselves. This helps them to assess the other person better and learn how to carry on communication with them. This could be particularly helpful for those in sales and marketing jobs as reading your prospective client’s body language can help you crack a deal. On the other hand, you would also be able to formulate a plan B if your client doesn’t seem convinced with what you are presenting.
Being able to read body language also helps you recognize others’ feelings and respond accordingly.
For instance, studies show that people with slightly raised eyebrows and a friendly smile are often considered to be highly trustworthy. This could be crucial to notice when making a big partnership decision.
2. They believe in proofreading their work several times
There is barely a detail-oriented person who would submit their work without proofreading it at least a few times. It is against their nature to not double or triple check before handing in the final work.
Other people may revise their work once before forwarding it. A detail-oriented person would rather spend a few extra minutes checking it than being held accountable for an error.
Also, they believe in making certain that the work they submit is of the best quality. So, if it requires them to edit the entire project, they would gladly do so if that means that the result is better than excellent.
This holds especially to journalists, authors, and others in the writing profession. Proofreading for them isn’t only about checking for punctuation and grammar errors. It is also to ensure that there is a flow of thoughts and that their intended message is being sent clearly.
3. They value efficacy
Being efficient doesn’t imply that you want shortcuts to everything or that you prefer rushing through things. Ironically, people who regard efficiency do not like wasting time. They believe that every second of every minute is valuable. They make sure that every moment is productive.
Their appreciation for efficacy also gives them the power to see alternatives that we could miss otherwise. Since they do not like wasting time, it is natural for them to find multiple ways to carry out a task than spending a lot of time trying a single method.
When working on a deadline, these people like to keep every single detail in check to ensure that the plan is foolproof and that there are no mistakes. This also helps them meet deadlines conveniently.
4. They can anticipate outcomes
People with detail-orientation tend to look at the bigger picture. They also know the saying ‘devil is in the detail’ by heart, implying that they understand and believe that if they failed to look at every detail, they cannot be confident how things turn out. And, true to their nature, they hate not knowing that everything will be alright.
There is also the fact that every tiny aspect of a whole has its purpose in the whole process.
Let’s say that you have to throw a house party. Now, if you are a detail-oriented person, would you leave all the arrangements to the last minute? Or, would you let someone take in charge? No. instead, you will plan everything in advance – the menu, timing, seating plan, entertainment options, theme, and even minute things like the stock of ice and toilet paper. If you were hosting the party outdoors, you will also make arrangements in case it rained.
You would do all of the above and much more because if you didn’t, you won’t feel confident about the success of your party. Moreover, you will be anxious throughout and worry about what your guests are thinking, or if there is enough food for everyone, or if the music is right for the occasion.
5. They believe in critical thinking
Critical thinking is the ability to thoroughly and rationally analyze facts to form a conclusion. While it is true that detail-oriented people do tend to overthink at times as compared to others, it is also this attribute that leads them to have a sharp perspective at things and notice what usually goes unnoticed.
To get to this stage of seeing clearer than others, they ask a lot of critical questions – to themselves and others involved with them on a project. They like to look for possible loopholes, logistical errors, alternative methods to simplify things, and even ways to finish the job faster if there is a next time. It is this habit that helps them achieve efficiency and factual accuracy.
They like to know why something is the way it is instead of making assumptions.
6. They are organized
One of the main reasons that detail-oriented people are so good at excelling in their work is because they know how to organize. It may seem like a minuscule aspect of work. However, the benefits of being organized are manifold.
For starters, their workplace is always neat to a ‘t’. They don’t have to go throw drawers to find a sales receipt or a project file. They don’t even need to look behind some old paperwork to find a pen. This is because there is no old paperwork laying around. It’s either all organized in neat files or stored as a soft copy in the cloud storage. Also, they know exactly where the receipt, the project file, and the pen are.
They also have clear short-term and long-term goals. They know when the project deadline is because they already prepared for it a week in advance and revised eight times. Also, they can forecast their team’s final annual performance because they keep control of every sale made and every client acquired.
Last but not the least, they have a list for everything – a daily task list, a weekly to-do list, a reminder list for upcoming meetings, business lunches, official travel plans. And, they have reminders set on their laptops and mobile phones to ensure that they don’t miss a thing.
7. They love being in charge
And, they are good at it. Though trying to micromanage everyone and every situation can be extremely controlling and bossy, taking control over tasks assigned to you is a good thing. Detail-oriented people do not like to give up the charge to someone else, until and unless they can trust them blindly. They are born leaders.
Detail-oriented people, due to their habit of being in complete control, can sometimes try to micromanage everything. This not only makes them disliked by their peers but also makes them unfit for team projects.
Prolonged thoughts such as these may also lead to believing that their colleagues are incompetent or that they are far superior. It is highly critical to avoid such behavior and thoughts to stay successful and appreciated at work.
5 Ways To Become Better at Detail-Orientation
Contrary to popular belief, detail-orientation isn’t something that is only inherited at birth. It is something that we can train our minds to be great at too. Sure, it takes time and a certain change in the way we see things, however, once you learn to master the techniques of observation, you would be able to see life through a very different lens.
At work, some of the things you can do be better at detail-orientation are:
1. Understand your roles and responsibilities
The first step towards focusing on your job is to know what it exactly entails. Knowing your role in your organization is the most vital step for engaging. Take a thorough look at your job description, especially if it’s a new role you are accepting.
Read and understand all the tasks and responsibilities you have to fulfill. In case of confusion, clarify it with your superior or a subordinate. Remember, it is better to ask questions in the beginning than being clueless later.
2. Be better organized
Whether you work for a reputed MNC or remotely from the comfort of a café or your home office, it is important to stay organized. And, this applies to every profession or task. Ensure that your work area is tidy and not clustered. Create a proper filing system for all important paperwork – even better if you can color-code them.
Instead of hoarding unnecessary paperwork, create a cloud-based storage system and create specific folders for all your files and documents.
Use digital planners to keep all your work appointments organized. This way, not only you won’t have to worry about missing a deadline, but you would always be calm knowing that it is all scheduled.
3. Create goals
Create two sets of goals – short-term and long-term. Short-term goals can comprise your daily tasks and repetitive work, for instance, checking emails, scheduling the next day’s routine, setting a reminder for a team briefing, etc. Long-term goals, on the other hand, can include preparing for a presentation that is due end of the financial year, meeting yearly sales targets, and acquiring new clients.
In the end, the purpose of creating short-term goals is to ensure that you achieve your long-term goals smoothly.
Creating vision boards is a great way of putting your goals in front of you. This will remind you of them. Vision boards must be thoughtful, bright, and interactive. It should not be bland just because the board mentions your professional goals. Making a proper vision board may take a bit of time and planning. But once you do it, it will be worth it.
4. Take proper notes
As much as we would like to believe, human minds only have a limited capacity to retain information unless you have superpowers. This is why you need to take detailed notes, especially if there is a customer request or a company meeting. Take note so that you can cater to what the customer exactly wants.
5. Do not multitask
Multitasking is a skill only a few people possess, like our mothers. The rest of us can barely manage to talk on the phone with a friend and to type a mail to our boss. The urge to multitask everything in our lives is one of the biggest hurdles to become more focused and particular. It is also a waste of time because you would not be exceptional at anything but just good. And, you want excellent, not good. Right?
Pay attention to one task at a time so you can notice every intricate detail about it and solve it at the earliest. Once you finish it, move on to the next task. But, never try to do two things at once.
Are There Any Negative Aspects of Being Detail-Oriented?
Well, as impossible as it may seem at this point, being ‘too’ detail-oriented can be harmful – not just to you but your workplace and those around you. A condition often termed as ‘analysis paralysis’ states that if you focus too strongly on things, the stigma is known as ‘perfectionism’ sets in.
Being too observant or ‘too perfect’ often leads to being stuck in a vicious loop of always second-guessing yourself and others and every decision taken. You would always have that feeling of ‘not good enough’ which will push you to keep collecting data and continue analyzing without reaching your end goal.
This habit can be too difficult to get out of. Not only does it hamper your personal life, but it also stagnates your organization and to some extent, your life.
It is important to be detail-oriented to the point that it is productive and helpful. For usual everyday things, observe as much is required, decide, and move on. Don’t let yourself get too stuck at anything.
Whether it’s a job interview or a new computer program you have to code, being detail-oriented is a skill that you must continue observing every detail around you and stay focused on the responsibility at hand. It will not only help you succeed almost every single time but also help you in bringing innovative ideas to the table.
However, maintain a healthy detail-orientation attitude and do not let it consume you. At the end of the day, keep in mind that you should always be in control of what you notice and when to move on.
Namrata is a Doctor i.e. dentist turned writer and a clinical researcher. Eager to learn about anything and everything, she is what you would call a jack of all trades and master of none. With a zeal for reading novels, books, and anything she could get her hands on ever since she was little, she embarked into a writing career purely out of luck. After indulging in a freelancing career for nearly two years, she can now write on anything - from dentistry to decor, travel to technology, medicine to management - but the psychology remains her first love. Having dealt with mental health issues in the past, she hopes to raise awareness for the same and help people with her work in association with The MindFool team