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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

3 Ways You're Not Paying Attention to Detail (and How to Fix It)

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As a manager, my job is to enable my team members to do their best work, but also to serve as a final checkpoint for quality before that work makes it out into the world. As such, I’ve developed a few systems for spot-checking attention to detail, which makes me either more or less confident in the work I’m reviewing. Pass the test, and the work gets my stamp of approval. Fail the test, and I’ll be digging in to a lot more detail to make sure it’s up to snuff.

I’ve listed out some of my quick spot-checks below so that you can catch those mistakes before your boss does—and keep impressing your colleagues with your unparalleled attention to detail.

1. Check for Accuracy

Do you work with numbers? Before sending any breakdown of analytics to colleagues, make sure your numbers tie. Test that your totals are accurately summed (a common mistake is having a breakdown that should sum to 100% that is over or under because of rounding), and that any metric you use across the document is always consistent. While you’re at it, include the source (when relevant), and you’ll stand out as a detail-oriented, reliable employee.

2. Check for Consistency

One way of checking if someone has paid attention, edited his or her own work, and maintained a high standard of quality is by checking for consistency. Are all of your bullets formatted in the same way (including all ending with the same punctuation, or lack thereof)? Do you use the same capitalization method for all of the section headers in your document? Do you spell out “percentage” or use the % sign? One inconsistency isn’t the end of the world, of course, but having several in one document can give off the impression that you’re not paying attention or you’re generally haphazard.

This tip applies to job seekers, too: Make sure your resume has consistent content and formatting rules throughout!

3. Check for Completion

Oftentimes, a document or email reply from one of my employees is the result of a complex ask; there may be several sections or a long list of questions I was looking to have answered. In those cases, I check to make sure that every section or question is accounted for. If anything is missing entirely, I know I need to get ready to roll up my sleeves and dig into the work, because it is likely to be incomplete.

The lesson: Before sending off a work product, make sure to check for completion. It’s OK to say: “Part 1, 2, and 4 are below—I’ll be following up with Part 3 by EOD”—just make sure you don’t forget to mention Part 3 at all. You’ll look organized and on top of things instead of forgetful and sloppy.

Bonus: This isn’t a spot-checking tip, but make sure you’re not making the #1 rookie attention to detail mistake: typos. It happens more often that you’d think, and impacts how your manager and clients think about you. Run your work through spell check at a minimum, and if it’s important, print it out and review it on paper.

I’d also recommend this quick trick by Muse editor-at-large Adrian Granzella Larssen: Read your work backward. Seeing your words in a different order can help you more easily identify errors.