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Attention to Detail Hobbies

On the pros and cons of attention to detail, when it is important, and how hobbies can help us pay better attention to details.

Both God and the devil are in the details. These idioms suggest that paying attention to detail can lead to great success, and neglecting details can lead to great failures.

But is paying attention to detail always crucial? The Pareto principle suggests not.

Is paying attention to details important?

According to the Pareto principle, 80% of the outcomes are controlled or decided by 20% of the activities or factors. It suggests we can usually achieve 80% of the requirements by paying attention to 20% of the details. It also suggests that improving from 80% to a perfect 100% requires four times the effort needed to reach the first 80%. In many cases, it is just not worthwhile.

The Pareto principle means that in many cases, we can go about our lives paying little attention to details and still get along just fine. It also means that paying attention to details is often unnoticed or underappreciated by others.

When is paying attention to details important?

When we want to stand out

Attention to detail is a rare commodity and can be appreciated as such in some circumstances, for example by a good boss. Our attention to detail usually means more peace of mind for our supervisors. So, attention to detail, while not an absolute necessity in many cases, can still give us an edge in our workplace or career.

When we want to save time and effort in the long run

When repeated tasks or activities are involved, sometimes paying more attention and investing more time in the short run can help us build stronger foundations and save time and headaches in the long run. It can also reduce the mental burden caused by uncertainty and loose ends.

When we want to do something that absolutely requires attention to details

Some activities are less forgiving and more demanding of attention to detail. Such as running your own business or writing poetry, where nuances are crucial.

When we want to excel in something that’s important to us

Sometimes it isn’t about work or other tasks, it is about something we actually care about, and we want to do well, for our own sake and enjoyment. This is usually the case with hobbies.

Can attention to detail be improved?

Attention to detail is a skill, and as such, it can be improved by practice.

But first, we need to change our mindset. As most everyday activities are forgiving of little attention to detail, we might automatically resort to it. We first must convince ourselves that paying attention to detail, while not always worthwhile, can be worth it. We need to decide to be dedicated to going the extra mile, even if it doesn’t pay in the short run.

Once we’ve made this mental switch, we can start practicing paying more attention to details. There are dedicated tips, techniques, and courses (and even a dedicated color?) out there, but they can be tedious, and therefore ineffective.

A much more natural way to practice attention to detail might be engaging in leisure activities. First, when we do things for our own sake, it is easier to cast worthwhileness calculations aside. Second, some hobbies require attention to detail, and cannot be successfully pursued without it.

Hobbies can help us practice and improve our attention to detail without paying attention to it while enjoying ourselves.

For some, attention to detail is a curse

Some of us are perfectionists. For a perfectionist, paying attention to details can be a curse: they can’t avoid it (that’s another possible interpretation of “The devil is in the detail”). A hobby can be an outlet for perfectionism – contained, personal, and endless by nature. Releasing perfectionism in a leisure activity can help perfectionists set more reasonable goals for themselves and others in other areas of life.

Hobbies can take us to another level of detail attention

Hobbies can induce a flow state: “that sense of fluidity between your body and mind, where you are totally absorbed by and deeply focused on something, beyond the point of distraction“. In a flow state, our attention to detail is on a whole other level.

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