Business, Editing, Marketing, Writing

The Devil IS The Detail

Do you consider yourself to be “detail-oriented?” Great. Now stop that nonsense and read on.

When I first started my career in advertising, I would pore over every project with intense scrutiny. To call-out that slight discrepancy in the kerning of a word within legal copy gave me a rush; I prided myself on being the epitome of hyper-scrupulosity. But then, something happened. I gained a new perspective. It came by way of a casual conversation with a fellow freelancing colleague that went something like this:

Colleague: “I had to reprint my entire presentation at midnight last night. More out of pocket costs at Kinkos! <insert nervous laughter here>”

Me: “Wow, what happened?”

Colleague: “Page numbers weren’t centered. I typically prefer the page numbers to be centered, and this time I right-aligned. Ugh…didn’t look right.” 

Me: (Puzzled) “Does your client feel that strongly about page numbers?”

Colleague: “Oh, I’m sure he wouldn’t have noticed. But I did. And that’s all that matters.”

So let’s break down this scenario a bit, shall we? My colleague spent additional time (time = money) and financial resources for a reprint due to an inconsistency that had zero impact on the final audience or the substance/accuracy of the presentation itself.

An eye for detail is a value-add trait…to a point. In fact, I published (and still stand behind) the financial impacts of seemingly minute details. But when losses outweigh gains, the attention spent toward said detail produces diminishing returns.

How do you distinguish the value-add details that warrant special attention from those that are actually costing you? Behold, a handy (albeit aesthetically lacking) decision tree for all of my meticulous-minded brethren and sistren:

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 10.46.31 AM

It’s been said that the devil is in the details. Sometimes, the devil is the details. Improve efficiencies (and save your sanity) by learning to distinguish between the two.