November 27, 2018
How to make fewer mistakes at work and get more productive
We all make mistakes, it is part and parcel of life. We are all human and therefore we make mistakes occasionally, but there are certain situations in life where you need to exercise caution, because mistakes can cost you dearly.
In a working situation, avoiding mistakes as far as possible is vital. Not only does it reflect on you badly if you make mistakes on a regular basis, casting you in an unprofessional light, but it also has the potential to cost the business a large amount of cash.
For example, say you accidentally lose a document which has taken several members of your team, including yourself, hours to compile. Perhaps this document had statistics and research included within it. Whilst there will be no cost incurred due to the loss, there will be a loss of time, and the extra time it takes to either try and find it, or redo it. And remember; time is money!
Seemingly small mistakes can easily escalate into something larger too.
For instance, if you work within a team on a regular basis, it’s likely that one large project is going to have the input of several people. What if you make a small mistake at the start of the project and don’t realize it at that point? The next person who picks up the work is going to continue in the same vein as you, so the error grows, and grows and grows. The final result could potentially be a catastrophic mistake.
I don’t want to make you terrified to go to work in case you make a mistake here, but it’s important that you realize how vital focus is. There are so many things in life which can affect your focus, and it often comes down to the small things. Of course, you don’t mean to make a mistake, but something as simple as not getting enough sleep the night before can cause you to be less on your game than you would otherwise be.
Your luck is in however, as I’m going to talk about a few ways you can adopt, to ensure that you don’t make mistakes at work, and if you do, you can sort the error out quickly, minimizing damage.
It sounds like a no brainer doesn’t it?
The thing is, so many people are worried about looking incompetent that they don’t want to ask a question. If you make a mistake because you didn’t fully understand the brief, that looks even more incompetent!
It’s always better to clarify anything you haven’t quite understood at the start; if anything, it makes you look more professional because you’re covering everything and making sure you get the job done properly. Never just guess, speak up.
Seek out training on anything which is causing you problems
Is there a software package which you really can’t get to grips with? Is there one recurring project which you haven’t fully grasped?
In this case, you simply need to ask for extra training on the problem at hand. This will shine a positive light on you, because you’re asking for extra guidance and training, rather than just attempting to muddle through.
You will also probably find that once you have that extra training, the issue you experienced before will disappear.
Work in a team and learn from others
Teamwork is a great avenue for learning from other people, and that in itself helps you avoid making mistakes out of lack of knowledge. In addition, you will be able to cover each other’s backs to a certain degree, taking the slack from one person being given too much, which could put pressure on them and cause a mistake to occur.
People who work in teams on a regular basis have a higher level of morale and are generally much more focused.
Break your work down into milestones
It’s much easier to focus on a task when it is small.
For instance, if you have a large project to complete, it’s going to seem like climbing a mountain. You’ll sit there procrastinating and doing anything else but that. On the other hand, if you break it down into smaller tasks, or milestones, you will make better progress, and you will also eliminate your risk of making mistakes, because your focus is much stronger.
If you are working within a team, you could also delegate tasks pertaining to that project to different people, especially those with particular skills which match the various tasks.
When is your most productive time?
If you have a particularly complicated task to complete, it’s best to focus on it when you are at your most alert.
Everyone has a peak time for productivity, and a time when their focus slumps a little. By knowing when your peak time is, you can dedicate that particular section to the more complicated tasks, and leave the simple items to the less focused time.
So, are you more focused first thing in the morning, and then go on to have a mid-morning slump? Are you a post-lunch productive soul?
Think about how you feel at certain times of the day and schedule your work accordingly.
Prioritize your work
If you don’t use prioritizing every single day, you’re going to miss deadlines and become stressed.
Stress in itself is the number one route towards mistakes. If you feel pressured about a deadline, or someone is breathing down your neck to get a job done, you’re not going to be able to dedicate the right amount of concentration.
If on the other hand you prioritize, your mind will be clearer, you can focus better, and everything will be completed within the appropriate time.
Raise your hand
If you do happen to make a mistake, it’s always better to hold your hands up and admit it, than try and cover it up. These things have a habit of snowballing out of control, and you will look more mature for simply saying ‘sorry guys, I made a mistake here, what can I do to rectify it?’
It might make you feel embarrassed, you might be worried about it, but it’s always a better option.
Look after yourself
This is the most simple of all my suggestions, but it’s the one which is going to be more effective than any other. Looking after yourself means your brain is sharper, your energy levels are up, and you can be more focused and productive as a result. So, how do you do that?
- Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. If you’re struggling with sleep, try and establish a relaxing routine before bed, perhaps a warm bath, a warm drink, reading a book, and avoiding anything too stimulating, such as TV, social media, etc
- Eat properly and snack on items which give you energy, such as fruit or nuts. Bananas in particular are a great booster for brain and body. Avoid high sugar items and too much caffeine as you’ll simply have energy highs and lows, which won’t help you concentrate. Also, never miss breakfast and never skip lunch! Make sure you have your lunch away from your desk too, as the change of scenery will clear your mind
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Becoming dehydrated can make it hard to focus on anything and you’re more prone to headaches
Making sure you get enough sleep is without a doubt the biggest suggestion I’ve just mentioned. Being tired means your eyes hurt, your head hurts, your body aches, and you simply can’t focus on anything other than falling into bed when you get home. How are you supposed to perform to the best of your ability under those conditions?
Do your research before starting a new task
Before you take on a new project, make sure you read the brief and know exactly what is involved in that task.
Do a little research, read up on it, and if you have any questions, as before, now is the time to ask. By knowing what you can expect from the whole task, you can break it down into milestones much easier, and you can also focus much more effectively, because you’re not expecting surprises or being unclear about anything.
No more stress from now on
I’ve just talked about some of the best ways to avoid making mistakes at work, and you’ll see that none of them are particularly difficult to follow!
Look after yourself, ask questions, work methodically, and prioritise everything out. If you can do that, you’ll dramatically cut your risk of making errors, and you can work much more confidently as a result.
Of course, you are human, as we all are, and I mentioned at the start of this article that you’re going to make the odd mistake at some point. It’s impossible to cut the chances out completely.
In that case, be prepared to raise your hand and admit the problem, and do everything you can to help solve it. By doing that, you’re showing that you care about your work, and you’re mature enough to say ‘hey I made a mistake’.