checking the microphone and webcam

How to increase the Power of Observation? Extremely Important Skill

Meet Dr. Matsumoto

In addition to his academic work, Dr. Matsumoto is the author of The Handbook of Culture and Psychology and the APA Handbook of Nonverbal Communication.

And something a little unexpected: He’s a 7th degree black belt in judo.

How do you balance it all? Do you use productivity hacks?

Dr. Matsumoto attributes all his success to his commitment to judo. He’s practiced judo since he was seven years old–meaning he’s done it consistently over the last 50 years! He practices judo almost every night of the week and that doesn’t include tournaments or teaching. He schedules all of his academic work around judo, and this activity has helped him to be more efficient and structured. It doesn’t hurt that he’s naturally disciplined too. 

I just try to produce everyday.

Dr. Matsumoto

Dr. Matsumoto’s daily structure reminds me of the research I read on the ebbs and flows of movement in open spaces. In big, open spaces, such as train terminals, the walking traffic is chaotic and messy as no one quite knows where to walk or how to pass by other people. However, if you interrupt the traffic with an object, such as a bench or a roundabout, people flow more smoothly since there’s a more defined traffic flow.

Dr. Matsumoto’s “bench” is judo–it helps the rest of his life flow more efficiently. Judo serves as an everyday refresher for him.

Action Step: What’s your judo? Do you have a “bench” in your life that can help you take a mental break you can carve the rest of your life around? What’s the one thing in your life that you aren’t willing to sacrifice? Adding an obstacle in your routine can help you structure and schedule everything else.

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Safety in the Workplace

Being observant and paying attention at work is essential for safety. In 2013, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 476,700 cases of non-fatal injuries and 304 fatal injuries in the manufacturing sector. Manufacturing ranks in the top 5 industries for incidences of occupational injuries and illnesses [BLS, 2013] , [BLS, 2013].

Watch the video

Workplace safety training videos can be hilarious, but getting hurt and being exposed to health hazards is no joke. With so much emphasis on legislation, regulation, and safety in the workplace, many employees still walk into an area and don’t know what to properly look and listen for. Practicing paying attention in the workplace makes us safer in several ways. First, following proper procedures and guidelines, or doing things “by the book,” prevents accidents. Guidelines and regulations are developed from lessons learned after accidents and mishaps. Second, paying attention to detail enhances our situational awareness. Situational awareness is the attention to different elements in your environment, understanding their meaning, and recognizing potential dangers before they happen. It requires using your senses, being familiar with the machinery and with the people around you, to be able to see, hear, feel, or smell trouble brewing. Simply put, it’s tuning into what’s going on around you.

Situational awareness is more of a mindset than a hard skill. There are two important parts to situational awareness: being aware of what is going on around you and taking responsibility for your own safety and the safety of others. It may come easily to some, but for most people, it is something that we must constantly strive to improve. For example, looking both ways before crossing the street, requires observing, processing, and understanding the world around us allows us to consider our risks before taking action. In this case, when to cross the street.

  • Accidents often occur because someone was in a hurry or took a short cut.
  • Keep your focus on quality and safety.
  • If a task seems too risky, stop and ask questions.
  • Ask questions about anything you do not understand or any procedure that is not clear.
  • Don’t ignore unsafe habits of others. Speaking to your coworkers about their unsafe habits could keep them from being injured.
  • Take safety training seriously. Training gives you the knowledge to keep yourself and others safe.

What’s wrong with this photo?

How many safety hazards can you find? Click on the image below to open the activity in a new window.

Idea Log

How many issues did you identify? What d

Idea Log

How many issues did you identify? What did you miss?

Eat consciously

Instead of wolfing down your lunch while working at your desk, have a meal with no distractions – even conversation.  Eat slowly as to observe how the food smells and tastes, and its texture as you chew.


Consume entertainment actively

It’s tempting to zone out while listening to a favorite song or watching a great movie.  But once in a while, it’s smart to practice your observation skills by thinking about the meaning behind a songwriter’s lyrics, or what the director was getting at when s/he shot a scene a particular way.  This may also help you enjoy your entertainment more fully!

(Photo credit: Macro shot of a woman’s green eye via Shutterstock)


Observation skills in the workplace

Here are a few ways that you can use observation skills at work:

Be present

Whether you're having a conversation or you're in a meeting, focusing fully on the moment allows you to contribute in a more meaningful way. During a meeting, taking notes is a great way to ensure that you remain engaged.

Ask for feedback

Observing the other person's facial expressions and body language helps recognize how they're interpreting the information you're sharing, but it's still important to directly ask people for their feedback. By giving them a chance to share what they're thinking or feeling and then actively listening to their response, you can make sure that you are communicating effectively and address any misunderstandings before they become bigger issues.

Notice how the details relate to the bigger picture

Being detail-oriented allows you to observe situations and surroundings more critically, but it's important to observe how these small details fit into the broader scope. This allows you to better understand issues so that you can develop solutions.

Technology Distractions

Today’s technologies connect us to unlimited resources and communication channels optimized to grab our attention. Emails, messaging, phone calls, and the Web, announced by a ping and a buzz are often just a pocket away. When used appropriately, these powerful tools keep us on track and can help resolve problems in the workplace. Most of the time, smartphones are used to fill in the small gaps of time when we believe a few seconds of shifted attention is no big deal.

Mobile phones and technology:
In 1973, Martin Cooper  , a Motorola engineer, mad

In 1973, Martin Cooper , a Motorola engineer, made the first call on a mobile phone. The Motorola DynaTAC 8000x weighed 2.5 pounds, measured 10 inches long, and only delivered 20 minutes of battery time. Four decades later, smartphones live in the pocket of nearly everyone in the United States. Our phones tell us the time, give us directions, take pictures, and keep us connected to family, friends, and work. Used appropriately, these devices can make our lives easier and more enjoyable, but they can be a huge distraction. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2011, 3,331 people were killed in crashes involving distracted drivers, and an estimated 387,000 were injured. [NHSTA, 2011]

Emails are an effective and convenient channel of

Emails are an effective and convenient channel of communication, but they are also a source of stress and distraction. Responding to emails immediately prevents having too many emails to address later, but it also means you are directing your attention away from your work and from the people you are talking to. Building the expectation that you will not immediately respond, can help alleviate stress and anxiety.

Tips Turn email sound and vibration alerts off. Schedule 30 minutes during your least productive time of day to check and respond to emails. For most people, this is after lunch or around 2pm. If you are expected to respond more frequently, schedule email checking for 15 minutes twice a day.

Instant messaging and texts are convenient ways fo

Instant messaging and texts are convenient ways for coworkers and friends to get in touch about issues that need to be addressed quickly. Being always available online means you leave yourself open to distractions.

Tips Set your status to “busy” when you do not want to be disturbed. Schedule times when you are online, and let people know they can contact you during those times.

The Web:
The Web is a powerful resource for answering quest

The Web is a powerful resource for answering questions, learning skills, looking up information, reading the news, and having fun. Web browsing has become a source of leisure both at work and at home. When looking something up for work, it is easy to get sidetracked by interconnected links.

Tips Stay focused by having a clear goal in mind when looking something up online. Taking a short break for casual Web browsing after a long duration of focused work can help refresh your energy. If you’re on your computer, use personalized timed site-blocking software for websites you easily get sidetracked on. Here are some apps recommended by Mashable Check your social media and news sites before work so you aren’t tempted to do so during work.

Observing Power of a Champion weightlifter

For example, a champion weightlifter says my performance was a big average of 5 years before I started weight lifting. I used to think that I do not know of any good workout routine. That is why I am not able to lift much weight.

Many people were doing such things around me, I was also waiting for 5 years for any formula. There were long discussions about the new exercise in the daily gym.

But one day suddenly it became understood that everyone else would keep waiting for the perfect routine. I started focusing on small things myself and started observing diet and gym routine, and found that my body responds better by setting more. This means I can lift more weight.

I felt that more work could be done on the variations of deadlifts and squats. As soon as I focused all my attention on my routine, I started seeing the scope of hidden improvement and small victories as well. All this was happening before my eyes for five years but there was never any discipline to pay attention to them. When I started learning from observation, within a few months I started lifting weights at the next level.

So the next question is,

Examples of observation skills

Observation skills are dependent on several other abilities and attributes, such as:

  • Communication

  • Emotional intelligence

  • Critical thinking

  • Attention to detail


Perhaps one of the most important aspects of effective communication is the ability to actively listen. When you possess this skill, you can dedicate your focus to the person speaking, comprehend their message and respond in an appropriate and thoughtful manner. You do this by paying attention to the speaker's verbal and nonverbal cues, such as tone of voice, body language and facial expressions. As a result, you can engage in the conversation and recall its details without needing to ask the speaker to repeat information.

Aside from improving your relationships and interpersonal skills, active listening ensures that your verbal and written communication is more accurate.

Emotional intelligence

The ability to evaluate and regulate your own emotions as well as recognize and empathize with the emotions of others is a skill that is known as emotional intelligence. Though this skill's primary benefit is that it helps you connect with those around you and build meaningful relationships, it's also a powerful tool of observation. By identifying the emotional state of others, you can better recognize how you should interact with and respond to those around you.

Critical thinking

Your ability to think critically has a significant influence on your observation skills. Critical thinking, or the ability to analyze context and facts so that you can thoroughly understand a topic or problem, requires you to remain objective as you identify issues and develop effective solutions.

Attention to detail

Attention to detail is the ability to approach and accomplish tasks with thoroughness and accuracy. This skill plays a strong role in productivity, but it's also key to effective observation because it allows you to recognize small details and adjust your actions to accommodate them.

About Science of People

Our mission is to help you achieve your social and professional goals faster using science-backed, practical advice. Our team curates the best communication, relationship, and social skills research; turning into actionable and relatable life skills. Science of People was founded by Vanessa Van Edwards, bestselling author of Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People. As a recovering awkward person, Vanessa helps millions find their inner charisma.