How to Increase Your Observational Skills

College students having a group discussion in classroom.
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College students and those who've entered the workforce often need to improve their observation skills to increase awareness, effectiveness and productivity. Observation skills require you to use your senses to examine the world around you to gain new information. Keeping an observation journal, playing games that increase awareness and participating in group discussions help increase your powers of observation.

1 Visit an Art Museum

Visit a local art gallery or art museum and examine the details in various pieces of artwork, including paintings, drawings and sculptures, to enhance your observation skills, suggests the University of Texas Health Science Center. Assess the colors, textures, shapes and designs, and document your observations in a notebook. Look for evidence to support your findings, such as consistent attributes in an artist's other works or irregularities that distinguish one masterpiece from another. Ask classmates or co-workers to go with you to examine the artwork so you can discuss and compare your observations.

2 Keep an Observation Journal

Keep a daily observation journal to record unusual, interesting or detailed experiences that you witness during an average day. Journal entries increase your level of awareness by forcing you to slow down and pay attention to details, such as changes in the weather, a co-worker's body language or the sounds of wildlife during your evening walk. The goal is to engage your analytical processes, problem-solving skills and creativity to become more acutely aware of your surroundings, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Read through previous journal entries to enhance your ability to make inferences and draw conclusions as needed.

3 Play Drawing-and-Guessing Games

Host a drawing-and-guessing game with your friends, classmates or co-workers to increase your observation skills. For example, Jeni McDermott, assistant professor of geology at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, helps her students improve their observation skills by dividing the class into groups to examine different landforms. One group must describe its landform in great detail, and the group receiving the information must draw it based on this description. Drawing-and-guessing activities help you focus on details so you can explain information in depth. You can use any subject matter for your game.

4 Get Rid of Distractions

Eradicate distractions to narrow your focus and improve your observation techniques. Distractions cause you to lose focus and impair your ability to make analytical assessments. According to Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister, authors of "Peopleware," a book on productivity, it takes 15 minutes to recapture the same level of focus or concentration you had before being interrupted or distracted. Increase your observation skills by focusing on one task, project or assignment at a time. Ignore your emails, social networking sites, Internet searches and television shows while you're working on improving your observation skills.

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.