Observation Exercises
Part 2

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I've talked about how you can train your observation for body language by asking yourself the relevant questions.

In this page I want to take this one step further, if you're inclined. I want to talk about why it's important to hone your observation skills in general, and how you can do it with some simple and fun observation exercises.

What's Observation For?

observation training

Ever since I read the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, I was fascinated with the concepts of attention to details and the deduction of an accurate conclusion from them. You might say it was my inspiration to get into the whole body language thing in the first place. Obviously, the stories in the books are exaggerated and fictional, but they still show a great deal to the power of accurate thinking and attention to details, and I believe we can learn much from them.

Observation is essential in many study skills and it's the source for our creativity and critical thinking. Deduction is the art of separating the important data from the unimportant to get an accurate explanation.

A quick side note: there's difference between looking and observing, looking is just "mining" anything without any intention of using it later, when you walk the street you see everything but you don't actually plan to do anything with that– it's an insignificant data for you and you'll forget about it eventually.

Observation is the "mining" tool – we get the right raw materials to work with and then we can process them in any procedure we need in our "factory" – the brain. Some examples for these processes:

  • In memory – before we learn to associate anything we must observe it first.  We need the details to use them as "hooks" in association with something we already know.

  • In critical thinking and deduction – just like Sherlock did.

  • In creative thinking – we rearrange our ideas based on new findings and get new inspiring results.

Now, without further ado, let's jump to the observation exercises themselves:

Observation exercise #1 – Are you familiar with your own home?

This one you can do right now in front of your computer:

Take a blank piece of paper and list every object located in your room. Don't look around! Visualize your room, and simply list every object in your room you can remember. If you can - describe it in detail.

After you're done, take a look around and see how accurate you were. You'll be quite surprised to find out that many things, you see practically every day – are missing from your list.

You can make such exam several days in a row, and you'll notice that less and less items will be missing from your list every time as your observation (and the memory of your room) improves.

exercise your observation in your room.

One TV - check... one sofa - check... wait a minute, where is the OTHER sofa??!?

You can do this exercise in any other place that you know quite well  - your office, your favorite bar, your street, anything you absolutely sure you "know" as the back of your hand.

By the way, how well do you really know the back of your hand?

Observation Exercise #2 – I've walked this road before…

When walking down the street or driving your car, pay attention to your surroundings. Describe the things you see to yourself, as if you're describing your surroundings to a blind man sitting next to you. You'll find that you can actually discover much more details than it seems to be at first. Plus it can pass you some time in the otherwise usual boring drive or walk.

Observation Exercise #3 – Photographic memory

super mind

Pick a random picture and take a close look at it for about a minute. Then close your eyes, visualize it and describe it in detail as much as you can. You may find that your imagination sometimes fools you, and you make up stuff when you don't exactly remember what you saw.  Once you get more proficient you can set yourself less time for each test.

Here is a nice game based on this observation exercise

Observation Exercise #4 – So you think you're Sherlock, huh?

This one is especially related to reading body language. Next time you're in some public place and you got a free moment - imagine that you stand in a crime scene. Pay attention to every detail and every "suspect" around you. Try to remember each person as if you were asked later to describe him for a profile sketch. Then close your eyes and test yourself to see how closely you remember the details.

Just be awesome like him

Image Source

Just do yourself a favor, don't start acting like some fiction undercover detective. Don't stare at people, and don't wear a heavy coat with sunglasses – believe me, it can lead to strange and unpredictable results…

Observation Exercise #5 – Play Observation Games

Observation games can be fun and semi productive way to pass the time and train your observation skills. Their effectiveness is a bit lacking in my opinion and I don't suggest rely solely on them to improve your observation but they can be really fun.

You can find hundreds of "find the difference" flash games online and try them out. Train your observation skills with them. Some of them are really good.

Make Your Own Exercises

As you can see, it's fairly easy to train your observation. It's all based on the concept of close examination, good memory and awareness to your surroundings. Develop and try some new observation exercises that fit your taste and available time.

If you have some great ideas you can contact me and I'll publish your findings.

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