Becoming More Observant

Being observant is something that can make you look like the smartest in the room, and something that can be highly beneficial to you in other ways too. Noticing little details gives you more information to work with and thus helps you to make better more informed decisions.

Being observant can help you to avoid an accident if you are able to spot a potential hazard – an oncoming vehicle, someone across the street throwing something, or a weakness in the floor that might collapse should weight be put on it. But if you want to be like Sherlock Holmes and spot every piece of information and data in any given room or environment, then it’s going to take a little bit of practice and technique. Particularly if you’re currently the kind of person who prefers to let their mind wander and drift off into space. Here we will look at how to be more observant.

Focus Up

First of all it is crucial that you focus on what is going on around you rather than existing in your own head. If you are daydreaming a lot, then this means you’re not connected to what’s going on in the world around you and you’re not going to notice those little details. Instead then, try to wake up to what’s around you, it’s a lot more interesting anyway seeing as it’s… real. Still struggling to pay attention? Then give yourself some tasks that will engage your attention and get you to pay attention to real world stimuli. For instance try counting things you see, or listening out for everything you can.

Be Methodical

Just ‘trying to be more observant’ is one of those challenges that doesn’t have much of a goal. Instead then think of a methodical way to examine any particular room or environment. For instance try working from the top left of your visual field to the bottom right and noting anything that you see of interest as you do the swoop. Alternatively it may make more sense to start in the center of your visual field and then to do widening loops – this is true as the things of most importance are often those that are right in the middle of your visual field. They present the most pressing concern simply because they are right in front of you.

Engage With What You See

Engage with what you see as well. For instance don’t just ‘look’ at the mark on the wall, rather try to think where it might have come from, what made it etc. As Sherlock Holmes points out, there is a big difference between seeing and observing. Everything you see that is out of place, ask yourself why it is there and how it got there, and what it tells you about the bigger picture.

Engage Peripheral Vision

Your peripheral vision is what you can see in the corners of your eyes rather than directly where you’re looking. Failure to use peripheral vision means that you will only be observant of what is right in front of you. Using peripheral vision means seeing everything at once. Here’s a little tip to try: stand up and have your hands folded over each other by your waist in front of you. Now, slowly draw a circle by arching the hands up and out and touching them in the top middle over your head again. As you do this, follow each hand with your respective eye and you’ll find you are now using your peripheral vision.


Practice being observant and not just in new places. While you might decide to try and be more observant this is not something that you can easily remember when there is a lot going on, and only practicing will help you to observe naturally. So sit in your living room or bedroom and make it your mission to try and spot something new. This might be a small mark on the television, a scuff on the wallpaper or a book on the shelf you didn’t know you had. Similarly practice observing out the window.


You can also train your observation skills and a great way to do this is with games like ‘Where’s Wally’. Other games can also train your observation if they get you react to things that appear on the screen.


Remember that being observant doesn’t just mean using your eyes – it means using all of your senses to asses your surroundings. Try now closing your eyes and listening out for all the sounds around you – the sound of the road in the distance, murmurs of people talking in adjacent buildings perhaps, or the sound of distant music. Again, try to imagine what these sounds indicate.

Know What You’re Looking For

If you are being observant then it’s much easier to be observant for something, so it’s a good idea to plan what you’re going to be looking for before getting set. And don’t be observant for ‘anything unusual’ as that’s simply not specific enough. If you are looking around a potential home to rent or buy for instance then make a list before you go of specific things you want to look out for such as mold, peeling wallpaper, scuffs on the wall. If you want to be more like Sherlock Holmes then make a checklist of things to look for on people – marks on their sleeves, mud on their shoes, the way they’ve done their hair, their jewelry etc.

Comments 1
  1. This reading was great, it kept me well entertained and informed and hopefully my observation will increase in time due to this article.

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