The Art of Noticing (Part 1)

By Jim LaDoux
The Art of Noticing is a thought-provoking book designed to spark one’s awareness and creativity through the intention use and focus of our senses. It challenges the reader to experience the moment and to be present to the people, places, sights, sounds, and smells of our environment. The book includes 131 simple and playful exercises to help you become a clearer thinker, a better listener, a more creative coach and co-worker, and to rediscover what really matters to you.  Listed below are a few of my takeaways from the first two chapters that focus on looking and sensing.

Insights and Ideas

  • Noticing is more than looking. It’s about paying keen attention to our surroundings using all of our senses that leads to greater awareness of ourselves and our environment.
  • It’s inordinately easy to gloss over what’s around us due to information overload. Technology pushes so many things at us that we often feel bombarded, pressured to either accept all that stuff or ignore it completely.
  • A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention. To counteract information overload, the author suggests that we slow down and let go of our need to be constantly tethered to phones, to email, and to social media. When you’re overwhelmed, sometimes it’s best to take a break.
  • The author invites us to be “first-class noticers” -  people who see things that others overlook.
  • Attention is vitality. It connects us with others and makes us curious. Attention allows us to notice what everybody else overlooks. Attention plays an important role in speaking to the difference between looking and seeing, between hearing and listening, between accepting what the world presents and noticing what matters most to us. What we do with our attention is at the heart of what makes us human. Deep attention is good for the soul.
  • Noticing is something everyone can do if they’re intentional about it, and it’s why The Art of Noticing has five sections of tasks designed to refresh and reframe out thinking. View the art of noticing as part of your everyday reinvention where you learn to 1) look, 2) sense, 3) go places, 4) connect with others, and 5) spend time along.
  • Pay attention to what others are not paying attention to. When you’re at a museum, look at things that are not art. View the art that everyone seems to pass by. See things from different angles of view. Pay attention to colors and patterns that others overlook, etc.
  • Our desire to be productive leads to multi-tasking. This distracts us from noticing. Give your undivided attention to one mundane thing at a time. Experiment with uni-tasking for a week and list what you’ve learned in the process.
  • inspecting and reflecting lead to new learnings and awareness. 
  • Focus on being more present and more curious rather than being more productive.

Sample Experiments

The experiments in the book are meant to shake up the way you see, hear, notice, and otherwise experience the world. Listed below are some of the seeing and sensing experiments I’ve been trying based on the book:
  • Close your eyes and listening to the sounds you hear for 5 minutes. What sounds did you notice that surprised you?
  • “Spot something new every day” in familiar places. Do a visual reset of your daily life with “no tools required.”
  • Experiment with “color walks, smell walks, and sound walks. Experiment with focusing on just one sense for a week and record what you learn.
  • List how often you are multi-task and what you're doing simultaneously.
  • List when and where you’re focused on the past or the future rather than the present.
  • Take pictures on your phone for a week.  Note what you intrigues you about the photos that were taken.
  • Draw a scene rather than taking a picture of it. Draw a scene in your mind with your eyes closed.
  • Sketch a room you just left. Note how the room made you feel and why.
  • Look for objects that serve a specific role, and then reimagine or repurpose the object for another function.
  •  Look up more, and around more often. Observe a setting without moving for a period of time. Practice people watching more often.
  • View settings and activities through different people's roles - a historian, a coach, a server, a painter, an architect, a bad guest, etc.
  • List in your journal the sounds and smells you noticed throughout the day. Note your favorite sounds and smells.


  1. As a coach, when and how do you employ the art of noticing?
  2. On a scale of 1-10 (10=very often), how frequent do you practice the art of noticing?
  3. What makes it difficult for you to practice the art of noticing?
  4. Which of the Insights and Ideas listed above do you resonate with?
  5. How does the need to be productive prevent you from noticing more often?
  6. What do you notice that others often overlook?
  7. How do you help others/client notice what they often overlook?
  8. How often do you notice what's present?  What's missing?
  9. Which noticing practices are you most interested in trying?

No Comments