How To Improve Observation Skills: A Comprehensive Guide

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 28 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Observations skills can be essential for having a fulfilling personal and professional life. These skills help you notice, understand and retain information in your environment using different senses. Learning about observation skills and knowing how to improve them can help you enhance your personality and abilities. In this article, we discuss how to improve observation skills, define them and share some examples.

What are observation skills?

Observation skills are the ability to notice, recognise, analyse and remember the things around you using different or all senses. Having strong observation skills usually includes being mindful, allowing you to notice your surroundings and pay attention to every detail consciously. Improving your observation skills can help enhance innovation, respond quickly and react appropriately. Strong observation skills can help you communicate, resolve conflicts, analyse non-verbal cues and retain information.

Observation skills can also significantly benefit your professional life. They can help improve productivity, enhance professional relationships and networking, organise time and solve problems. Having strong observation skills can also improve your communication, adaptability, research and analytical skills in the workplace.

Related: Active Listening Skills: Definition And Examples

How to improve observation skills

Follow these steps to find out how to improve observation skills:

1. Start observing your environment

Spending a few minutes every day to observe your surroundings can help you pay attention to the different things in your environment. For these few moments, pause everything and simply look at the things around you, as far as you are able to see. Notice the people, objects, buildings or plants in your immediate environment. You can perform this exercise at your home, office or when you are travelling.

2. Pay attention to detail

As you start observing your environment, start noticing any changes you see in the things around you. Find out whether these changes happen consistently or whether they are erratic. Do not forget to notice the smaller things in your vision, like a signboard or a mailbox. Each day, try to notice if things have changed and remember how they were before. Doing this can help improve your memory and analytical skills.

Related: A Guide On How To Stay Focused (With Practical Tips)

3. Practise mindfulness

To improve your observation skills, you can start practising mindfulness and stay in the present. Begin by removing distractions such as electronic screens or devices and try to move to a quieter area with fewer noises. Then start focusing on things you may not have observed before. For example, when you look outside, notice how many flowers you see and how brightly coloured they appear. Identify if you can smell something familiar or hear a sound that seems out of place for the location.

4. Meditate regularly

Mediating every day can help improve mindfulness and train your brain to observe the environment better. Spend a few minutes daily to sit in a comfortable position, away from distractions and be aware of your thoughts. Focus on each breath and experience your lungs inflate and collapse as you inhale and exhale. As you progress, you can start meditating for longer and follow different forms of mediation. You can take the help of many online tutorials or mobile applications to build a habit of meditating regularly.

5. Keep an observation journal

If you struggle to remember the details of the many things you observe, you can start to maintain a journal and note your observations in it daily. You can also write them on your phone using any note-making application. Try to include as many details as possible and maintain consistency in your entries. Doing this can help you become observant, recall information easily and be expressive. Over time, you may find that you are less reliant on the journal to remember details.

6. Solve puzzles and crosswords

Puzzles like crosswords or sudoku can help improve your observation and memory skills. Many number and word-based games can help you develop specific observation skills, such as attention to detail, critical thinking, analysis or information retention. If you are using applications on your mobile to play such puzzles, make sure you turn off the notifications to ensure minimal distractions so that you can focus on the puzzle.

7. Learn a new language

Learning a new language can be an excellent way to improve your observation and cognition. You can begin learning a language similar to the one you already know and then try learning more complex and different ones. For example, if you are fluent in English, you can start by learning French or Spanish. Learning a new language can also potentially be an additional professional strength and can help expand the number of work opportunities.

8. Eat slowly and consciously

Many people tend to eat their food quickly without chewing it adequately or observing the different flavours and textures. Eating slowly and consciously while noticing the different sensations you experience can have several benefits. To begin, simply chew your food properly before swallowing it and take a break of a few seconds between bites. Try to notice the different things you feel, whether you like them and how they change as you eat. If possible, avoid having distractions while you are eating to focus exclusively on the activity.

9. Build the capacity of different senses

Most people associate the power of observation with having a strong visual memory and remembering things like dates, but observation skills also include the sense of smell, sound and touch. To improve your observation capacity of these senses, consciously notice new sounds or smells. If you encounter a strange sound, try to determine its origin and determine if you correctly identified it.

Similarly, you can enhance your sense of touch by observing different objects physically and closing your eyes. For example, pick any object and shut your eyes while holding it. Now examine its texture, material, temperature, share, rigidity and other properties.

10. Make deductions

As you start noticing things instinctively, try to find the reasons, patterns and influencing factors in the things you observe. Start asking the ‘why' behind what you observe and experience to find answers and solutions. Observe different things, establish certainty and theorise different conclusions from the same. Then, investigate and find out which of the conclusions is correct.

11. Test your skills regularly

As you experience an improvement in your observation skills, make sure you keep testing your capabilities regularly. When you feel that you are progressing, keep increasing the complexity of the challenge, puzzle or activity to improve your skills.

For example, if you feel that you are beginning to memorise all the things you encounter on your way to work, start noticing things in greater detail, like their number or type. Say, you know the number of buildings you cross while walking to work. Now, begin noticing which ones are taller, what their colours are and what sort of architecture they have.

Examples of observation skills

Observation skills include and depend on other abilities, such as:

Communication

Communication involves exchanging information, listening attentively and expressing yourself clearly. With strong communication skills, you can become more present in conversations, understand what the person in front of you is saying, comprehend the message effectively and respond thoughtfully. These skills can also help you read the non-verbal cues of the speaker and analyse their body language, tone and expression. Communication skills can help you conduct conversations smartly, improve relationships and speak and write more effectively.

Related: Communication Skills: Definitions And Examples

Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the awareness of your emotions and the ability to assess the emotions of others. This crucial observational skill can help you interact with others, build networks and collaborate with team members effectively. Emotional intelligence can help you notice the emotional state of others, form relevant responses, identify your biases and view the same things from different perspectives. This can also help improve your personal and professional relationships.

Attention to detail

Attention to detail can help you observe the things around you accurately. By being attentive and paying attention to small things, you can improve your productivity, reduce errors and organise your work. Having strong attention to detail can help recognise minor errors, rectify them timely and analyse complex information effectively.

Related: Attention To Detail: Definition, Examples And Tips

Critical thinking

Critical thinking is the ability to analyse information to comprehensively understand a topic, formulate solutions and identify the most suitable one. Being a critical thinker can help improve your observation skills as you become better at collecting data, observing patterns, deducing solutions and investigating theories. Critical thinking skills include research, analytical and problem-solving skills and can help you improve your decision-making in both personal and professional life.

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