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The Art of Noticing

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

One ‘micro skill’ that I’ve been trying especially hard to hone this year, is that so-called ‘Art of Noticing,’ which advocates swear by as a way of cultivating insight, inspiration…and calm.


What it involves, fundamentally, is fine-tuning the powers of observation and curiosity (simultaneously) with a view to never letting the details, pass you by.

Apparently, this technique can help you better understand what you want and care about, as well as shift your perceptions of the mundane and unusual, with far-reaching benefits for fulfilment, joy… and so much more.

Specifically, the technique can make you more ‘creative, insightful and happy’ - that’s according to author Rob Walker, who wrote a book on this very topic, and who has come up with a series of ‘observation exercises’ that willing students can pick and choose from, to build and develop this skill.


In the past few months especially, I can certainly say I’ve managed to niche down on a good solid handful of these ‘forms’ of noticing, which I’m hoping stands me in at least reasonable stead, to take advantage of its many cumulative benefits.

These include:

Connecting sounds to the feelings induced (really noticing how the songs on the radio resonate, and on what level)

Being more observant during boring activities (like queing, sitting in traffic, washing up.)

Making lists of things I find interesting (health hacks, recipe ideas, words I like the sound of) and reflecting on these over time.

Looking up more often (at the moon, the sky, the clouds)

Focusing on one thing at a time (it’s not the best example - but no more double screening in the evening)


It is, of course, always somewhat difficult to quantify the benefits of these micro behaviours, particularly in real health terms.

However, what I have noticed, is that seizing more immersive moments acts rather like seasoning - bringing a texture and flavour to the whole, which is far greater than the sum of all those leaf-observing, coffee-foam-admiring, old-book-sniffing parts.

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