Pay attention to details


“I would never have made my success in life, if I had not bestowed upon the least thing I have undertaken, the same attention and care I have bestowed upon the greatest,” Charles Dickens. Do you have that degree of focus and attention to detail? How can we train ourselves to match Dickens’ intensity? Here are some suggestions:

• Make each activity important to you. When we admit that something is important to us, we usually pay more attention to it. How can we make everything important? We exchange time, energy and resources on everything that we do, correct? If so, that means we exchange part of our life for each activity, and isn’t our life important to us?

• Keep track of the actual details of each situation or activity. Work to find a balance between your memory and your notes. If we rely too heavily on our memory, we will probably forget or remember something incorrectly. If we take too many notes, we will spend too much time writing and finding those notes. The idea is to keep track of critical parts and points. Check lists can be one technique for this idea.

• Keep a log of progress, like a diary. Use the log as a reminder, a memory jog and a list of parts both completed and left to do. A daily calendar works well for me. I put in major activities, milestones, and ideas on the date. That makes it easy to see the time line for a project.

• For critically important details, use props, cues, and reminders. I’ve found that if I put my keys on the most important item I must remember to take with me, it works well. Setting an alarm, posting a note on your computer screen, or at a door you must go through are ideas to consider. Don’t allow yourself to become dependent on your cues and reminders. That is counter productive.

• Cultivate an active interest in what you do. In each area of life, find reasons to care, reasons to increase your knowledge about the area. Simply have an interest in the subject or don’t do it. When there is something you don’t want to do, but must do, find a way to make it interesting or recognize it as a necessary step between where you are and where you want to be, and do it. Be interested. Be aware, focused and involved. This is the natural way to take care of details. When we enjoy what we do, we pay attention. And when we pay attention, we notice and enjoy the details without effort.

What else can you do to help yourself pay equal attention to both the big and small details in life?

Tim O’Brien writes continuing-education courses and presents seminars on stress management.