Detail Oriented vs Big Picture – 9 Strategies To Keep The Balance (2021)

9 min read

Most people fall under either of the two main types of thinking paradigms: big picture or detail-oriented.

The big picture thinker usually keeps coming up with ideas of what the ideal world would look like. The detail-oriented thinker on the other hand mostly thinks pragmatically and is organized.

But neither big picture nor detail-oriented thinking on its own is ideal for fulfilling success. A slight balance of both is more effective.

Before we get into the strategies for balancing detail-oriented vs big picture thinking, let’s explore the definition, characteristics, and examples of these types of thinking to determine your personality. 

Let’s dive right into it.

Detail Oriented vs Big Picture
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What Is a Big Picture Thinker?

A big picture thinker is someone who mostly thinks of issues from a broader, overview-type perspective. When dealing with any project, they focus on the overall importance of the project and the major steps required to execute it. 

When big picture thinkers focus on details, they get tired easily. It’s the big picture that energizes and keeps them going. These types of people are often called visionaries or dreamers.

They’re usually full of ideas, great at outlining how things could change, and what needs to be done to make the world a better place. Most inventors are big picture thinkers.

Is it good to be a big picture person?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

It’s amazing to be a big picture person since you probably are highly creative, innovative, strategic, and optimistic. While you can be disorganized and bored easily, you can easily connect your current efforts with the vision which helps you keep going, willing to improve your way to reach the long-term outcome. 

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What are big picture thinking examples?

An example of a big picture thinker in the psychology field is Zara who seeks after addressing the root problem of a big mental health issue for a decade rather than addressing the symptoms.

An example of a big picture thinker in a renewable energy company would look at future customer needs plus long-term environmental outcomes to come up with novel ideas of the best product to create. 

A big picture thinking HR manager can keep an employee with poor attendance but has a skill set that matters most to the organization’s vision, keeping in mind the behavioral change tactics he can use to motivate the employee to be more competent in the long run.

What are some examples of big picture goals?

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Big picture thinkers like goals that describe the outcome from an overview perspective. Here are some big picture goals examples:

  • To empower others to live their identity
  • To turn my business into a boundaryless organization
  • To give employees the power to share and be more connected
  • To spread optimism to others
  • To become healthier and fitter organically

What Does It Mean to Be Detail Oriented?

Detail-oriented thinkers think of issues in specifics, preferring to deal with anything one step, one idea at a time. They’re organized, meticulous, observant, and thorough and therefore take their time perfecting projects.

Most detail-oriented people do well in safety-sensitive areas since their strength is spotting crucial details like errors. They can make great proofreaders, programmers, and accountants.

Many detail-oriented thinkers may be mistaken for perfectionists since they don’t accept broad, fairly accurate solutions to problems but prefer, down to the detail, accurate answers.

They can be overbearing leaders since they tend to micromanage and spot small mistakes. Also, they can easily drown in the details, forgetting that the big picture matters most.

Is it good to be a detail-oriented person?

Being a detail-oriented person is good since you’re probably organized and meticulous which helps you produce high-quality work. Also, your memory is very good. While you can have perfectionist tendencies that affect you and others, you can focus your detail-oriented nature on the areas most necessary.

Related: 32 Characteristics of Low Self-Esteem and Solutions

What are detail-oriented thinking examples?


Image by Richard Reid from Pixabay 

Before submitting her work, Clara proofreads the content, checking for grammatical errors. After 12 hours, she edits contextual errors. After 6 more hours, she revisits the content to ensure accuracy, flow, and overall conciseness. If she isn’t sure about the sensibility of some explanations, she repeats the process until she feels it’s perfect.

A real example of a detail-oriented thinker is Steve Jobs who cared about every little feature of Apple products and made several tweaks to make the unseen hardware of the Mac look great. He was quoted by Bussiness Insider saying, “I want it to be as beautiful as possible, even if it’s inside the box. A great carpenter isn’t going to use lousy wood for the back of a cabinet, even though nobody’s going to see it.”

Scott, a detail-oriented graphic designer, agonizes over the shade of grey he has to use on the pie chart quarter since he believes it plays a role in the message of the whole chart.

What are some examples of detail-oriented goals?

The goals of detail-oriented thinkers are like mission statements or to-do lists. Here are some examples:

  • To accept and appreciate others more 
  • To bring technology that’ll enable more open communication across all company levels
  • To create more team interaction platforms for employees to share ideas more
  • I’ll encourage and support people I meet
  • Exercising and eating a vegetarian diet to tone my body

What Is the Difference Between Detail Oriented and Big Picture Thinking?

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While detail-oriented people are more organized, meticulous, conscientious, and thorough but lack a broad perspective to prioritize for the long-term, the big picture thinkers are visionary, strategic, creative, and optimistic but are disorganized and get bored easily.

So which kind of thinker are you? If you’re still wondering, check out the characteristics that make you either a big picture or detail-oriented person.

How do you tell if you are detail-oriented?

  • You prefer tweaking an existing plan than creating one from scratch
  • You think over issues in great detail that you sometimes miss the bigger picture
  • You end up putting down or highlighting almost all notes
  • You’re extremely analytical
  • You work towards high-quality work in most areas of your life
  • You’re organized
  • You like routine
  • You struggle with perfectionistic tendencies
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How do you tell if you are a big picture thinker?

  • You can easily spot patterns in problems
  • You have a low tolerance for busywork, tedious errands, and routine
  • You’re good at figuring out an overview of strategies to get something done
  • You get bored when you have to deal with the tiny details of a project
  • People view you as incredibly creative
  • You like to come up with original ideas
  • You are motivated to work on a variety of ideas and new projects
  • You don’t obsess over little details and therefore, solve problems fairly quickly
  • You worry less about little problems as long as you’re progressing towards the end goal

Why Should You Seek a Balance in Detail Oriented Plus Big Picture Thinking?

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay 

Being either a detail-oriented or big picture thinker is great. But neither is effective on its own for efficient execution of strategies.

The big-picture thinker can create an amazing strategy and yet fail to even get a project off the ground. And even if it kicks off, a lack of attention to detail can lead to failure of the whole project due to errors.

As for the detail-oriented thinker, they can be fast and accurate in execution but if they fail to see the big picture, their immediate efforts may fail to accomplish the vision. Furthermore, when problem-solving, their efforts may be reactive instead of responsive which is disastrous.

That’s why we need a “balance” between big picture and detail-oriented thinking to strategize and execute projects effectively and efficiently in this fast-changing era. 

And the following section explains how.

How to Balance Big Picture and Detail Oriented Thinking in 6 Strategies

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Here are strategies you can use to balance detail-oriented and big picture thinking:

1. Involve a coach

A life coach can help you balance your thinking models by showing you important details you miss out on. 

When you’re a big picture type of thinker, for instance, you can remember the great ideas you’ve had yet most of them ended up unexecuted. As you explain your visions and struggles to a life coach, they can help you attend to the details by creating commitment plans with you while holding you accountable for their execution.

If detail-oriented on the other hand, you might fail to count instances where your to-do lists overwhelmed you and even got you out of the path to your vision. But when you work with a coach, they can remind you of your vision, pointing out efforts that matter most in the long run.

Either way, a coach can help you realize why you get stuck in something while providing proven mindset balance strategies to overcome such issues.

2. Create a team with detail-oriented and big picture thinkers

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The best team isn’t that of visionaries alone. Neither is it made up of only pragmatics. An effective team is composed of big-picture thinkers and detail-oriented ones as well.

Together, they can balance each other’s thinking, applying the best ways to do projects for efficiency in the long and the short term.

So whether you’re managing your personal life or career, teaming up with both types of thinkers would help you work on projects with big picture thinking and attention to detail.

3. Outsource

This is another strategy for bringing both detail-oriented and big-picture thinking to the table in a professional setting.

Instead of doing all tasks by yourself or within the organization, you can outsource those that can be done by a hired mind.

Let’s say you have a consulting business and you need clients to understand your services and know you’re an expert in your industry. Instead of striving to write the white paper yourself, you can explain your vision (big picture) plus the ideas you want to be included (details) to a copywriter who’ll connect the two thinking models to create a successful whitepaper.

So when do you know you need to outsource? When:

  • A task isn’t the main part of the services your offer
  • It’s a seasonal task
  • It’s a task you don’t know much about that someone else can do more efficiently
  • The cost of doing the task in-house is higher than outsourcing

4. Balance big picture with detailed questions

Whether mapping out an action plan or working on a project, knowing both the big picture and the details are important.

Here are examples of big picture concerns balanced with detail-oriented questions:

ComponentBig PictureDetails
VisionWhat is the end goal?What does it look like?
ProblemWhat is this end goal trying to solve? What makes up the problem?
PurposeWhy seek the end goal?What minor purposes constitute the main one? 
SystemsWhat systems would be needed to achieve the end goal?What combination of tools, resources, and strategies would make up the systems?

You can make a table like this one for various tasks that you may balance out your big picture understanding with the necessary details and vice versa.

5. Pause and reflect

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When you’re busy executing any tasks in your life for far too long, it’s easy to forget the details or the big picture depending on the type of thinker you are.

For instance, as a big picture thinker, you can be excited by how your old and new ideas are connecting and work on outlining them, forgetting that the ideas have to be structured by many crucial details to work in the long term.

The details person on the other hand might be buried in unending to-do-lists, feeling secure in the routines only to be disrupted by an enormous transition they didn’t anticipate.

However, if you pause and contemplate how you’re doing as far as the big picture and details are concerned, you can make small tweaks that help you stay consistently productive.

Whether weekly, biweekly, monthly or even quarterly, pause and reflect:

  • Do my efforts align with my vision?
  • Am I neglecting or missing important details?
  • Are some tasks taking too much of my time but contribute little to the outcome?
  • Which of my efforts impact my vision most?
  • Why do I struggle to meet the most important objectives?

Related: 22 Scientific Ways How To Get Over A Mental Block

6. Determine the mindset you need for different tasks

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Some issues need you to tackle either with a detail-oriented or big picture mindset. When dealing with such things, it’s important to know what matters most in the outcome.

For instance, if looking to create something functional in the least amount of time possible, you’ll know you shouldn’t focus on aesthetics.

However, especially in interactions, remembering to mention some details like someone’s name, their pet, or any other meaningful thing to them makes them feel heard, a feeling that would boost your connection with them.

So whenever trying to balance your thinking, determine where the big picture counts and where the details matter. 

Related: People-Pleasing and Control – A Complete Guide

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Final Word

Balancing both mindsets is important for quick but strategic solutions. So it doesn’t always have to be big picture vs detail-oriented thinking for you. You can think both ways through the above-described strategies depending on the issues you’re dealing with.

Which strategies for balancing big picture vs detail-oriented thinking can work for you? Why? Let’s chat in the comments below!

Also, don’t forget to share this piece with friends and change lives!

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