Increase your focus
You can probably find tricks that make you more detail oriented by increasing your focus:
- Don’t do tasks where the details are highly important when you’re in a rush
- Avoid playing background music so you can be more focused on a detail-oriented task
These are just examples, they may not be right for you.
Know the stakes and tradeoffs
One thing to keep in mind is that for different tasks, getting details wrong creates different levels of problems. If I write a piece of code slightly wrong, I might delete a piece of the database and we’ll lose $thousands dealing with the fallout.
Whereas if I input an employee’s travel reimbursement amount wrong on their payroll, it violates a little trust with the employee, but it’s only a few minutes to straighten out when the employee points it out, so overall it’s not too bad.
In this case, the right tradeoff when inputting reimbursements might be a level of focus and care that leads to 1 out of 200 entries being wrong. 1 of 20 is too much. 1 of 2,000 is better than needed.
There’s always a tradeoff between going faster and producing more errors, or going slower and having fewer errors.
Design a system
Going slower isn’t the only way to reduce errors. Another solution is to design a system for yourself that reduces error.
If you have a data entry task for instance, you could make yourself more accurate by making a spreadsheet template that you configure to validate that the data makes sense or highlight parts that might need to be double checked.
No fireable offenses
Another thing to note is that we never expect anyone to be mistake-free: any individual in a company making any single brain fart type error is never a fireable offense even when the stakes are high. Because any time it’s possible for an individual to destroy a ton of value from one brain fart, someone should have already built some defense against it. That’s why we back up our database every night — so when I accidentally delete some data, it limits the extent of the damage.
Play to your strengths
Last thing to keep in mind is that it’s generally good to play to your strengths instead of forcing yourself to face down your weaknesses, because you work with other people who have a different combination of strengths and weaknesses. So if you know you’re not detail-oriented, you can focus on tasks where you leverage your strengths more, and delegate or transfer the detail parts to someone else.
That’s how to think about what being “detail-oriented” means, how to be more detail-oriented, and the tradeoffs you make when you pick how detail-oriented to be.