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Name of author Rick Baker, P.Eng.

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Fixing Attention-to-Detail problems

by Rick Baker
On Jan 4, 2016

I have recently been bombarded by people talking about situations where people they work with are illustrating a lack of attention to detail. The sheer volume of problems brought to me recently cause me to wonder if there is something in the air causing behaviour shifts where people suddenly experience massive difficulty paying attention to details.

Sure, from time to time all of us experience problems paying attention to detail. This happens when we are overstressed. This happens when we are attempting to multi-task. And this can also happen when we are experiencing excessive interruptions while we are attempting to work.

However, this cannot or at the very least should not become a normal state of affairs. We cannot achieve business success if we cannot attend to details and perform with accuracy. Attention to detail is essential to successful performance of business tasks.

Putting two and two together, it certainly appears that many people and many businesses will not be successful…unless we can help them do better in the area of attention to detail.

So, how might we do that?

It's probably a good idea to start by asking questions. That's certainly better than assuming we know why the person is having difficulty paying attention to details.

We can ask a question like, “I notice this error - how do you think that happened?

When we ask that question, we cannot accept an offhand answer. We cannot accept a shrug of the shoulders coupled with, “I don't know.” We cannot accept unclear excuses like, “I'm too busy.” We must make sure the answer has been thought through, at least to a degree.

Sort attention-to-detail problems into two categories:

  1. The person has never had an ability or skill in the area of attention to detail. Under this category, we cannot expect any better performance than the person has illustrated in the past and we should not set attention-to-detail goals that are unachievable. Solution: people who have never exhibited attention-to-detail skill should not be doing work that relies on attention to detail.
  2. The person has exhibited skill in the area of attention to detail but now those skills appear to have slipped away. In this case, something has happened to create a change. Solution: to remedy this problem we must understand what has happened. Who can answer that question? Likely, the person is in the best position answer the question. Make sure the person understands you are committed to understanding what’s happened. Ask the person. That’s the right place to start.

As you hear people answer your questions consider how you might help them improve attention-to-detail skills. For example, some thoughts...

  • Consider the power generated by Napoleon Hill's advice: “Plan your work and work your plan (‘Think and Grow Rich’, 1937). Embedded within this advice: schedules help us remember to do the right things at the right times. Doing the right thing at the right time promotes focus and concentration on that thing. Timing, focus, and concentration are the ingredients of attention-to-detail.
  • Be Present - when struggling to concentrate, at the very least a person can pause and work at removing thoughts about the past and thoughts about the future. When we remove thoughts about the past and the future we are at least limited to thoughts about the present situation. That's a good step toward focus and concentration.
  • Airline pilots confirm check-lists save lives - if check-lists work in the airline industry that proves check-lists have some value. And, what about medical teams in operating rooms. And what about shoppers in grocery stores. Check-lists have proven their value. People who choose to ignore check-lists are bucking a successful trend.
  • Know how to say, “No” - this applies from small "No" to large "No", from saying "No" to co-worker interruptions to saying "No" to boss work-dumps.
  • Don’t fight the fact you cannot multi-task and achieve meaningful success - multi-tasking is the route to mediocrity.

First published October 7, 2014

If you don't have time, you have nothing.

by Rick Baker
On Aug 18, 2015

Recently, the following quote caught my attention:

"Time is the substance from which I am made."

Jorge Luis Borges

Argentine Author & Poet, (1899-1986)


Quotes about time always catch my attention…because (1) I have always been and still am fascinated by the concepts of time-physics and (2) over recent years, I am alarmed by the increasing number of people who think and say they things like, “I don’t have time.

I am not familiar with the work of Jorge Luis Borges, so I can only speculate on the context around his quote. Without context, I interpret the quote in my own way. 'Subjective opportunities' - perhaps that is the best measure of a quote's value?

Here, I will not be providing an interpretation of, "Time is the substance from which I am made." Instead, I will share some thoughts the quote triggered.

My first reaction to the quote was to do a double-take….I thought I had mis-read the sentence. After reading the quote the 2nd time and reaching a conclusion about its meaning, for some reason, a question-thought hit me:

“If you don't have time, what do you have?”

The answer to that question came quickly:

“If you don't have time, you have nothing.”

Whether or not time is the substance from which we are made, if we don’t have time then we have nothing.

Perhaps, that’s why I have such a problem when people say things like, “I don’t have time.” Perhaps, that’s why I feel their self-brainwashing is so damaging..so spirit-killing…so unnatural ...

Perhaps, that’s why I now feel the most helpful thing you can do when people say "I don't have time" is ask, "If you don't have time, what do you have?"

Since you care, you ought to offer these wrong-thinking people at least that provocation.

If you care even more about helping people make positive changes, and the situation lends itself…

Help them understand, if they continue to think and say they do not have time then they are right – they do not and never will have time.

And, help them understand, if they do not have time then they have nothing.



Footnote - article About Time



Intelligence, Accuracy, & Time

by Rick Baker
On Aug 10, 2015

Let's set Emotional Intelligence aside for the moment. 

Let's assume logical-Intelligence holds the position of authority and control over human behaviour.

With Emotional Intelligence out of our way, we can live in a three dimensional world of (logical) Intelligence, Accuracy, and Time – where success is determined by a combination of (1) possessing Intelligence and (2) possessing the ability to convert Intelligent thoughts into Intelligent actions. When observed by other Intelligent people, the people who are skilled at converting Intelligent thoughts into Intelligent actions will be seen as producers of Accurate and Timely actions.  Conversely, those who are not skilled at having Intelligent thoughts or converting those Intelligent thoughts into Intelligent actions will be seen as producers of actions that are inaccurate (errors, omissions, etc.) and untimely (procrastination, missed deadlines, etc.).

Attribution Bias suggests most people will not be able to self-diagnose their abilities/performance in these areas. On the other hand, they will be able to destructively criticize other people's abilities/performance.

All this considered, when Intelligence fails to present itself thoughts and actions business offices become battlefields where errors can quickly become the Bouncing Betty mines, the bazooka shells, and the nuclear-tipped missiles of mayhem and mass destruction.

So much for trying to set Emotional Intelligence aside… 

Victims of Time…Let's rally against that pathetic Fate!

by Rick Baker
On Aug 5, 2015

Time is not the scourge of us.

We are not pawns to be battered about by heartless Time.

And, Time cannot be our scapegoat or our excuse for lack of success.

Think of the Sun’s role in all of this. Here we are elipsing around that nearby star. Each time we complete an orbit we write off another year…call it 12 months…or 365 days…or 8,760 hours…or about 525,600 minutes…etc.

Without our Sun, Time as we know it would vanish. That considered, rather than blaming Time for our shortcomings, it makes much more sense to blame the Sun...at least for our lack of planning, our lack of action, our lack of results, and our lack of success.

Instead of saying things like, “Sorry, I didn’t have Time” we should be saying things like “Sorry, the Sun made me not do it”.

Yes, clearly, that makes a lot more sense!



Ears 3.0

by Rick Baker
On Apr 15, 2015

If you force yourself to stop being too busy, get present, and observe others you will notice many people don't listen to most people.

We've all observed people who pretty much don't listen to anyone.

We're all guilty of failing to listen to some people some of the time...despite our efforts to concentrate, from time to time, our minds naturally wander away even while we are standing face to face with some talkers.

If we've taken the time to watch people communicating and think about what we have observed then we know many people don't listen to most people.

If we've not taken the time to watch people and think about it then we are likely one of those too-busy people who don't listen to most people.

If we've not taken the time to 'self-observe' then chances are very good we are one of those people who don't listen to most people.


Overall - people's ability to listen seems to be shrinking exponentially.

If this keeps up there are bound to be some communication changes at our workplaces.

We may experience a new level of future shock...

There could be a wave of ear-testing like we have never experienced.

It is quite possible our policy makers will deliver laws requiring inattentive employees to wear artificial ears.

If we fail to pass the future hearing-standard tests then we too will have to wear artificial ears...at least during our regular working hours.

New-ear industries will spring up...future darlings for the stock markets...celebrated at our tech-innovation incubators, infomercialed on those cable TV channels, and touted by our stock brokers.


Yes - it seems we may be entering the new era of Ears 3.0!


Communication: Improving Communication | Humour | I'm too busy! - I don't have time!

There’s something about “The Details”

by Rick Baker
On Mar 27, 2015

We’ve all heard that idiom/saying, “the devil is in the detail”. And, we know it means important-troublesome things lurk in the details.

Wikipedia tells us that idiom/saying derives from a predecessor idiom/saying, “God is in the detail”, which [according to Wikipedia] means - whatever one does should be done thoroughly; i.e. details are important.

I believe that fascinating fellow James Allen would agree, “God is in the detail”. That would be consistent with his views about work mastery and bliss.

On the other hand, for some reason the saying - “God is in the detail” - was replaced with the current saying, “the devil is in the detail”.

Perhaps, when it comes to sticky idioms, sooner or later the pessimists out-muscle the optimists and positive messages are submerged in negative messages.

Regardless, it seems to me most people have a love-hate relationship with “the details”.

Some related points…

  • Most people love certain details and hate other details.
  • Many people feel work-details should be delegated down the hierarchy.
  • Many people believe positions of power & authority provide excuses for detail avoidance.
  • Many people who side-step the details expect others to delve into those same details.
  • Perfectionists have a troubled & tangled relationship with “the details”.
  • 24 centuries ago an ancient Greek fellow named Euripides said, "Leave no stone unturned." Evidently, he was all for digging into the details. And, that saying has survived the test of time.
  • A century ago, in his classic 'Pushing To The Front', Orison Swett Marden wrote, "Go to the bottom of your business if you would climb to the top. Nothing is small which concerns your business. Master every detail."
  • More recently Steve Jobs said, "This is what customers pay us for - to sweat all these details so it's easy and pleasant for them to use our computers.
Considering all these centuries of talk about the details...

There must be something in 'the details'.

Perhaps, we should check out the details from time to time.

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