Do You Focus on the Details or the Big Picture?

Do you focus on the details or the big picture? Learn why it's important to be able to do both to live a fulfilling life.

Back when I worked in an office setting, I was talking with one of my coworkers and we ended up on the subject of science courses. I proclaimed my love for organic chemistry and how I wished I could take it over and over again (yes, I’m weird). She mentioned that she liked physics because it dealt with real world problems and could be applied on a larger scale.

Since she was my friend, she didn’t spurn me for my love of a notoriously hated science field, but instead told me that it made sense because I was a very detail-oriented person. I was responsible for many of the reports that dealt with very specific numbers and required little to no error. I loved (to the chagrin of others) auditing patient folders and finding mistakes that needed to be corrected. Organic chemistry focused on such a small scale that it was no wonder it soon became my favorite class.

Neil, on the other hand, sees a much larger picture than I do. He has his career planned years in advance and actually thinks about retirement. I tend to think on a more myopic and day-to-day basis and how teaching x number of classes in a day means I can buy more exercise clothes. Nevermind saving anything for the future; I CAN GET A NEW PAIR OF TIGHTS. I also tell really long and detailed stories that leave people asleep or vacantly staring at me by the end.

Thankfully, we help balance each other out because he helps me be a responsible adult (sometimes) and I help him realize that we need to try and enjoy life in every day moments.

Neither way of thinking is bad or wrong, but being able to do both at some point is important. I’ve listed some important big and small topics to help you see the importance of both ways of thinking. What type are you?

BIG PICTURE: Major Life Milestones

Things like marriage, retirement, and starting a family are all BIG life events. They require strategy and planning. True, there are always impromptu Vegas weddings and not all children are planned, but once you get there, it’s going to be something you have to figure out. Retirement and planning for the education of a child require that you take time to think about the future and how you plan to get from point A to point B.

DETAILS: Missing a workout or eating dessert

Missing a workout or eating something like a delicious donut (mmm) is not something to beat yourself up or feel badly about. If you fall off your routine, simply accept that fact and then get back into it. In the grand scheme of things, it probably won’t matter if you missed that 6 am workout one day. It’s a little different if you stop working out altogether or replace dinner with an ice cream sundae every night, but that’s a post for another day. Life is too short to waste time shaming yourself, so if you need some extra sleep or that donut has been calling your name, enjoy it!

Related: 4 Powerful Steps To Combat Shame

BIG PICTURE: Personal Growth

This can be applied to emotional growth as well as overall self-improvement. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10? What differences (if any) do you want to make in the world? What kind of person do you want to be? Remember that you tend to attract similar people, so choosing to improve your outlook and your behaviors will eventually surround you with supportive and uplifting people. Learn to set boundaries. There are some things that you can change immediately, but other changes take time to achieve. Actively working on your growth as a person is a process, and one that very often takes time.

DETAILS: Personal Growth

Yes, I used the same topic. That’s because personal growth works on both a short and a long term scale. There are changes that you can make today that will impact today. Those same changes made today can also impact many days, months, or years down the road. Do something nice for another person today. Take some time to journal. At the end of the day, reflect on what’s happened and ask yourself if you could have reacted to situations differently or in a more constructive way. Make apologies sooner than later.

Questions:

  • Are you a detail-oriented or big picture person?
  • What other examples can you think of for each?

Thanks to Amanda for letting me think out loud.

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28 Comments

    • erinsinsidejob
      January 28, 2016 / 5:26 pm

      Man i wish I had that ability

  1. January 28, 2016 / 6:23 am

    I think I want to put more focus on the bigger picture, but I tend to be very detail-oriented on most occasions. I’m always thinking about the next little part of my day or thing on the checklist. Sometimes, I feel like it’s easier to see personal changes through details, such as through personal self-growth, but I could be wrong if I saw the bigger picture!
    Sarah @ BucketListTummy recently posted…Why Food and Diet Comparisons Shouldn’t ExistMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      January 28, 2016 / 5:27 pm

      I love checklists and todo lists. They make me feel so accomplished when I cross something off and then it doesn’t stick around in my head all day!

    • erinsinsidejob
      January 28, 2016 / 5:27 pm

      I totally leave Neil up to that. I get so overwhelmed when thinking about giant problems and strategy

  2. January 28, 2016 / 8:10 am

    I like the small details most times because i can get overwhelmed when a goal seems too big. For example, when training for a 100 mile race, I would be a day to day person and looking at the goal would deter me. I hate looking at the workouts my coaches plan days before and usually check it out the night before I do it. I find that I start to worry or stress about unnecessary things. Looking at smaller details keep me in the present.
    Ellie recently posted…Running Rambles #2My Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      January 28, 2016 / 5:28 pm

      Yes I totally agree! It helps to break down those giant goals into smaller steps. Then it seems so much more achievable!

  3. January 28, 2016 / 8:24 am

    I’m more of a big picture person. I always think to myself about the grand scheme of things, where my life is heading and what really matters. My husband is better at the details. So just like you guys, we balance.
    Jen @ pretty little grub recently posted…Thinking Out Loud #56My Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      January 28, 2016 / 5:28 pm

      I need you to help me in my life then. You and Neil haha

    • erinsinsidejob
      January 28, 2016 / 5:29 pm

      Man I get overwhelmed with the bigger picture!

  4. January 28, 2016 / 9:36 am

    I am definitely detailed oriented, but I wouldn’t say I fly by the seat of my pants either. I’m always planning setting short term and long term goals. My biggest challenge is focusing myself and my time to achieve those things.
    Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious recently posted…How I Lost 80 PoundsMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      January 28, 2016 / 5:29 pm

      I really need to learn how to sit down and plan out those bigger, long term goals.

  5. January 28, 2016 / 9:45 am

    Details, for sure! I *try* to focus on the big picture, but it’s a struggle (hence why at almost 32, I still don’t know what I want to be “when I grow up” and kinda wish I could have a do-over at college!).

    Now that I have a child, I really need to channel the big picture part of me because HOW am I going to pay for this kid’s college?!?! 😉
    Catherine @ foodiecology recently posted…Why “Eating Clean” May Not *Always* Be HealthyMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      January 28, 2016 / 5:30 pm

      Haha that’s where I am too. I’m like ok, I’m 31 let’s switch careers and try to do this now!

  6. January 28, 2016 / 11:38 am

    I think I split myself between details and big picture. I can easy focus too much on the details and lose sight of the big picture (like slow and steady and saving) but I’m working on getting better at it.
    Ange @ Cowgirl Runs recently posted…Confessions 1/28My Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      January 28, 2016 / 5:30 pm

      You and me both sister

  7. January 28, 2016 / 12:04 pm

    I’m definitely more of a big picture person, which is both a good and a bad thing. They always say that your weaknesses are your strengths. I tend to miss the little details that make up the big picture, but I’m thankful that God has also gifted me with optimism to help encourage others who are struggling with the smaller details. And they teach me to not get lost in the big picture and be more conscientious about the details. 🙂
    Emily recently posted…Recovery Series IV: Defined by LoveMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      January 28, 2016 / 5:30 pm

      That sounds like an awesome outlook Emily!

  8. January 28, 2016 / 12:12 pm

    Well how about this… I am neither naturally a detailed person nor a big-picture person because both concepts require me to think first before doing something. HA! I used to be very, VERY impulsive with no care for details or how it will affect me down the road. I was all-or-nothing. I’ve come a long way in the last 10 years through trial and error, therapy, maturity, and the responsibility that comes with having kids (whatever I do without thinking will affect them too, not just me). I don’t like science or math. I love language, religion, philosophy (as long as there are snacks) and any type of subject that can get my creative juices flowing.
    Suzy recently posted…The Switch BackMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      January 28, 2016 / 5:32 pm

      Ahahahaha I love that. I love both types of subjects hence why I majored in psychology. But then I did all that science for pharmacy school too and loved that. So who knows.

  9. January 28, 2016 / 7:36 pm

    I’m with Angie, it’s both for me! I try to be detail oriented without getting lost in the details!

    • erinsinsidejob
      January 29, 2016 / 12:40 pm

      That’s a great goal. I’m going to add that one to my list 🙂

  10. January 28, 2016 / 7:40 pm

    When I worry, I become more of a details-person! Focusing on the little, what-ifs can really get me down, but Ray usually brings it all back for me and helps me see the bigger picture!
    But really…how many more workout classes until new workout gear??!!
    Jess @hellotofit recently posted…My Effective Method for Better Bicycle CrunchesMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      January 29, 2016 / 12:41 pm

      That’s good it sounds like you two help each other out for sure! And YES. I’m glad you understand me.

  11. February 3, 2016 / 8:28 am

    Wow, I never really thought about it but I imagine I think about both. And I am right there with you, if I can make xx amount this month I can buy those new shoes, etc. Ha 🙂
    Jenn – a traveling Wife recently posted…Pineapple Cashew Fried RiceMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      February 3, 2016 / 2:30 pm

      All the new clothes! I really need to calm that down haha.

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