Accuracy Doesn’t Happen By Accident; How To Limit Errors At Work

Ideally, you would produce error-free, perfect quality work all the time. But that’s impossible.


The crush of daily activity prevents the kind of calm, unhurried pace that makes it easier to catch mistakes. It’s hard to be meticulous when multitasking and putting out fires.

Careless mistakes occur for many reasons. You can transpose numbers or suffer a brain cramp that stirs trouble. Medications, lack of sleep or other health issues might adversely affect your attention to detail.

For people in technical jobs, perfect quality work is crucial. Stories about surgeons who amputate the wrong leg make headlines, but commonplace screw-ups involving math or data entry errors also wreak havoc.

To develop work habits that minimize mistakes, try some tips.

Prepare With Care For Quality Work

Set the stage for accuracy and quality work by eliminating obstacles. Organize your time so that you start projects well before the deadline. Waiting until the last minute induces stress — and that in turn can lead to blunders.

Like many in the construction industry, Ken Rusk says he adopts a “measure twice, cut once” approach to double-check his work before proceeding.

“It’s important to prepare, to have a plan before you get started,” said Rusk, founder of Rusk Industries, a construction firm in Toledo, Ohio.

Brace For The Unexpected

Mistakes often happen when disruptive events, such as a sudden shift in technology providers, causes disorientation. As you and your team race to adjust, accuracy and quality work can fall by the wayside.

“You have to be open to certain things that come up,” said Rusk, author of “Blue-Collar Cash.” He likes to identify hidden or easy-to-overlook variables that can derail the best laid plans and maintain accuracy even when things go wrong.

Confirm Assumptions

Years of experience can breed confidence in your work. That can work for or against you.

Overconfidence can lead to sloppiness. If you think you know it all and have seen it all, you might miss red flags and make costly mistakes.

“Say you’re working on an old building,” Rusk said. “You assume someone in the 1920s or 1930s assembled a sewer line correctly. Then you start (demolishing) a concrete floor and you discover it’s not what you assumed.”

To prevent problems from spiraling out of control, check your assumptions first. For example, special equipment enables Rusk and his team to detect any subsurface anomalies before demolishing a floor.

Enlist A Trusted Ally

Perhaps you’re unlikely to make a mistake due to your diligence and focus. Still, you’re not infallible.

Enlisting a fresh set of eyes to inspect your work helps spot errors that you might otherwise miss. As long as you allot time for this extra round of scrutiny, adding another layer of oversight should reduce mishaps and boost quality work.

“You can’t check your own work,” said Jeff Platt, a certified financial planner in San Diego, Calif. “It’s better to have someone who’s totally independent check what you did” for mistakes.

Use A Checklist For Quality Work

Breaking a complex process into simple steps — and training staffers to follow the system with consistency — leaves less room for error and boosts quality work.

“We’ve created multiple workflows with multiple checklists,” Platt said. He adds that the seamless integration of his firm’s technology streamlines work procedures.

“We’re not reentering numbers as much because our (technology) all interacts well,” Platt said. “When you have to reenter numbers, you’re more prone to error.”

Read The Right Way

Sloppy reading habits lead to errors. After long hours staring at a computer screen, your eyes may get tired and that can reduce your comprehension. Quality work might slip.

“I print things out and highlight,” Platt said. “I like to read from a piece of paper, and physically highlighting (with a marker) helps me retain what’s important.”


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