Original ink work: www.sktchy.com/veronique_frizzell
I'm pretty sure I've done a post about making mistakes, but since it's been a while and since I've had two conversations with my boss about the topic, I think it's time to revisit the topic of making mistakes because we see so many. There's mistakes in grammar and spelling. There's mistakes in keying in or adding numbers. It can be something as simple as failing to update your numbers with the latest set of numbers. Or forgetting to update the date. Or maybe what we are writing does not make sense - the words say one thing and the picture or chart says another. Whatever kind of mistakes they may be, there are simply so many of them. Heck, even I make them. And we send out these reports to customers with these errors.
But, because I know I make mistakes, I make Excel do those kinds of work. I automate the stuff that's done routinely month after month or week after week. It might take a couple of weeks to get the automation done but I somehow get it developed. The automation can be done either by formulas, pivot tables or by a program, but I try to reduce errors in the numbers and dates as much as I can.
Spotting mistakes are harder for me. Again, I make Excel do most of the work in highlighting logic errors. I develop logic formulas to help aid me when numbers don't look right to Excel. My boss can spot errors a mile away; I have to program Excel to tell me when something doesn't look right.
Words are even harder for me. My boss is currently proof reading a manual and this activity was what prompted our conversation. A young lady asked my boss to proof read the manual, and my boss looked at me and said, "You know what's going to happen if you ask me to proofread. I can't help myself." And yes, she will get into the details but that's all good. She's amazing at spotting errors.
Words are harder for me because it is not easy to automate the error detection. I rely on Word to highlight misspelled words. As a matter of fact, I copy the words in these posts into Word to make it catch my spelling errors. WordPress has a spellcheck function but it no longer functions so I use Word. Spotting the grammatical errors, though, is way harder because it requires me to re-read my admittedly weak writing. I hate re-reading my stuff but I have to in order to catch the grammatical errors.
Here are some of the key things I do to reduce the chances of errors:
- Concerning numbers, I make Excel do most of the data inputting either via formulas, pivot tables or, rarely, macros.
- Have some cross check formulas to do some simple math to make sure the numbers add correctly or matches something or upholds a certain logic.
- If you are prone to forgetting to update the dates, make Excel do that for you.
- Figure out when you are most likely to make errors and try to have a game plan for that. For me, it's at night after a long day of looking at a screen. So I try to do most of the heavy lifting work in the morning or afternoon. If I can, sometimes after I finish working on something, I leave it for the morning to see if I spot any fresh errors.
- Don't leave to the last minute and try to rush through things. That when you are most likely to make mistakes.
- Get enough sleep and don't work too many long hours. After many long hours, your ability to tell whether you made a mistake declines dramatically. And sometimes you lose your judgment.
- For words, let the Word document catch your spelling mistakes.
- If you can, allow a day to go by and then re-read your writing. By then, you might be able to re-phrase your sentences better. Of course in my case, my writing would be a complete do over. For these posts, I'm pretty remiss at leaving a day between writing and re-reading. I just write, re-read, make corrections and then post; thus, I have lots of errors and the writing is pretty insipid.
- Get someone else to proof read your materials.
Whatever you do, if you send materials to customers, make sure you have corrected all errors.