How to Make Fewer Mistakes at Work and Boost Productivity

While some employees might be content with bare minimum effort, others (like you) are committed to constant improvement and aim to find out how to make fewer mistakes at work. Either out of a love for your job, or a necessity to stay gainfully employed, it makes sense to try to avoid getting canned.

The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends, there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.Thomas A. Edison

For most people, mistakes are not intentional. They’re also unavoidable. You will, inevitably, make a mistake one day. A good manager knows that mistakes happen. It’s when the same mistakes happen or happen frequently. As understanding as leadership can be, there’s no free pass to ignore mistakes and have a carefree approach to work.

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 – 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

There have been a number of studies in recent years proving the ineffectiveness of multitasking. 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 have uninterrupted time to focus on every task. This way you’re not trying to respond to emails, edit a blog post, respond to text messages, and answer phones.

Eliminate distractions

The easiest way to boost your focus 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.

To minimize mistakes, make every effort to cut distractions from your day. This 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

Actually, just close your email software until it’s the designated time to check email. You might also want to try an application like RescueTime. RescueTime helps you understand your web and daily habits so you can find the distractions that kill your productivity.

Use a task tracker or checklists

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. There’s no shortage of task programs and project management software to help you with this. Check out applications like:

  • Asana
  • Basecamp
  • Smartsheet
  • Todoist
  • Trello

Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, is huge on making lists to ensure he hits his daily goals and stays on track.

Try automating your task workflows

Depending on the work you do, some of your projects may include a complex series of tasks. The more you have to deal with, the easier it is to overlook something. That’s only made worse when you start adding collaboration into the mix.

Automated process solutions like Tallyfy can greatly reduce mistakes that come from complex processes. By creating the flow of the process and tracking steps, you can track progress and ensure that things only progress to the next phase when previous steps have been completed. Integrate approvals into each stop, and you’ll never have to worry about oversight again.

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. When given a task, make sure you fully understand what needs to be done. Repeat the request back to ensure that you heard correctly.

Know who your support system is as well. Ask who to go if you have any questions while performing the task.

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. Then review it a third time. 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.

Get a second set of eyes

Even after the most careful reviews, chances are mistakes are still going to happen (see above.) It helps to get the aid of a coworker, or any second set of eyes to weigh in on your work. Try to link up with the most experienced person you can find with a knowledge of your task or project. It’s always beneficial to get feedback and have a neutral party weigh in.

Take breaks and refresh with a mental pause

Even with all of the above working in your favor, mistakes can still trip you up. Especially when you’re pushing the envelope each day, working through lunch, and trying to nail a deadline. 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.

Stop procrastinating

I’ve met my share of marketers who feel they work better under crunch time, and they’ll often push the start of projects until the last minute. This removes any margin for error on delivery, forcing you to deliver a perfectly polished project 100% of the time, on time.

That’s just not feasible when you’re working as the clock is running out. You’re bound to rush, not do your best work, and make critical mistakes that impact you and others.

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.

Featured Image – OSHA.gov/National Cathedral

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