While some employees might be content with bare minimum effort, others are committed to constant improvement and aim to find out how to make fewer mistakes at work. For most people, mistakes are not intentional, they’re also unavoidable. The truth is, you will inevitably, make a mistake one day. Note that mistakes don’t make you a terrible employee, even if they make you cringe when you look back on them. If anything, they’re terrific learning experiences as it is an opportunity to learn how you can do better.
Having made my share of mistakes over my career, I promise that if you adopt just a few of these ideas and apply them to your work life, you’ll be making fewer mistakes at work.
Stop trying to multitask:
While you might feel like a hero who is accomplishing twice as much, you’re really just spreading your focus. Even if you’re one of the rare people who can multitask, you’re still splitting your attention across multiple projects. This increases the odds of overlooking something important. Instead of trying to get everything done at once, structure your day so you can have uninterrupted time to focus on every task.
The easiest way to boost your focu on the given task is to eliminate distractions. You may not think much of them, but there are simple distractions all around you that are part of your normal workday and personal life. This distractions includes:
- Shutting down/not checking social media sites
- Turn off notifications on your mobile device
- Turn off desktop notifications, especially for email and chat clients
- Reduce coworker dialogue to a minimum if it’s not work/task related
Use a checklist:
Missing a critical step in a task, or overlooking a project, happens even to the best of us. You can minimize this mistake at work by using the tried and true notepad to make a simple checklist and keep track of your tasks. If you really want to stay on point, upgrade to some digital tools or software platforms that will trigger alerts and keep you moving from task to task. Let nothing slip through the cracks. Check out applications like smatsheet and todolist.
Always clarify and ask questions:
Often, mistakes stem from a lack of understanding. Either you were too proud to ask, or you thought you understood how to complete the task at hand. If you don’t know how to do something with 100% confidence, then take the time to ask. To avoid having to go back one or more times with questions, which can slow progress, get clarification immediately. Asking questions only makes you smarter, since most new tasks come with a challenge and require that you learn something new.
Carefully review your work:
Before you move on to the next task and declare your current one officially done, review it. Then review it again. I use a multi-stage proofing process for writing tasks. Despite my best efforts, I still have errors/mistakes that sneak through. Often, errors get missed because we work up against tight deadlines. With little to no time left to carefully review, things get pushed through while relying on luck. If you’ve spent countless hours working on a project, make sure you take the time to review it. Give it the attention it deserves so you can be proud of the finished product, not terrified of potential errors.
Take breaks and refresh with a mental pause:
Even with all of the above working in your favor, mistakes can still trip you up. You’re no good to anyone if you’re brain dead by the middle of the week. Make sure you take frequent breaks to give yourself a mental rest. It doesn’t take long; a few minutes every hour or so can be enough to keep you fresh and paced throughout the day without getting burnt out. And don’t skip your primary breaks, like lunch. You need the food to fuel your thought process and physical stamina through the afternoon.
Start your projects on time, and schedule appropriately to give your tasks ample time to be completed. Most importantly, take the time to prioritize so those critical items are accidentally slid to the bottom of the stack.