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Six secrets of the error-busters

By YOUFactors

By YOUFactors

24 Jan, 2024

Ever get the feeling your performance could be better even though you have ‘tried everything’? Stuck for ideas on how to improve?

More often than not it is, in fact, unexpected errors that are undermining our performance. 

It doesn’t have to be this way! There is one group that does not accept this kind of levelling off: let’s call them ‘error-busters’. And error-busters all know one thing for sure: managing human error is the key success factor. 

Error-busters are just like the rest of us. They are flesh-and-blood people with their own challenges and circumstances to deal with. They don’t explain away poor performance by telling themselves that ‘stuff just happens’ and that you just have to ‘deal with it’. They don’t waste valuable time and energy on regretting their luck or lost time and/or money. 

So, how do they do it? How do they optimise their performance so successfully? Let’s run through some of their secrets: 

1. Error-busters count the little errors

Error avoidance is a dimension of daily life that most of us overlook. But high performers know that most unexpected incidents come about precisely because of human error.     

Nowhere is this more obviously put into practice than by professional athletes. Sure, Djokovic and Messi make errors, but they keep them to the minimum. They do this through a set of internalised principles, the first of which is taking note of unexpected incidents, no matter how small, and learning from them.  

The takeaway? The first step in your error-reduction journey is getting into the habit of observing errors, however small, in your everyday life. 

2. Error-busters know their state

The top performers then look at each unforeseen outcome and ask themselves: what state was I in? Why do they do this? Because suboptimal states, whether physical or psychological, are the springboard for human errors, large and small.  

Let’s dig into this idea. We all know that when we are fatigued, our error rate zooms up. But the same is true when we are complacent about what we are doing. It’s also true when we are frustrated in some way or when we are rushing.  

Think about these four states for a minute – fatigue, rushing, complacency, frustration – and examples proving the point about errors and accidents in their wake will quickly come to mind from your own life.  

It might be painful to remember the incidents! But the important thing is to identify the state involved.  

That time you scraped the side of your car when you exited the car park at work too quickly? You were rushing to catch the supermarket before it closed.  

That time you broke three bones in your foot taking suitcases down from the attic? Wasn’t there Complacency involved? After all, you were using a ladder you had been up and down hundreds of times. 

The takeaway? Take care to stay in touch with your physical or psychological ‘state’ at all times. 

3. Error-busters pre-empt the basic errors

Armed with this understanding of states leading to errors, high performers take steps to monitor their states and pre-empt any threat to them.  

That means implementing some basic rules in life such as guarding rest periods or allowing extra prep time in case of unexpected delays.  

It also means developing pre-emptive habits. What kind of habits are we talking about? One of them might be always using a handrail no matter how familiar the staircase. Yes, that is basic common sense, but a lot of wasted time and negative impacts comes about every day because of people ignoring a handrail. 

Get rest when you need it, take your time, do things carefully and always keep your eyes and mind on the task underway – these are not glamorous or particularly exciting pieces of advice. But they are the building blocks that protect you from the majority of avoidable errors! 

The takeaway? Be rigorous about the absolute basics: rest, mental/emotional composure, allowing prep time, and taking care in even the smallest actions. In the helter-skelter of everyday life, we often skip these foundational precautions.  

4. Error-busters keep their eyes on the task.

Our fourth secret is another seemingly simple one and, once again, you can look to the world of sports for proof. “Keep your eyes on the ball, not the scoreboard” is a piece of advice coaches like to tell players of all kinds, whatever their age and skill level.  

Why do they say this? Because where you are looking is a good indicator of where you are at. And if a task, whether it is work or play, is important to you then keeping your eyes on that task is fundamental to getting the job done. 

The same goes for driving cars, assembling a monthly report, and finalising a shipment at the loading bay: keep your eyes on the task, and you will be ahead of the game. 

The takeaway? High performers never lose their focus on the physical, Job One being to keep your eyes on the task.  

5. Error-busters keep their minds on the task too.

Keeping our eyes on the task is often a piece of cake compared to keeping our minds on task given the constant distractions and communications coming our way throughout the day.  

Most people are now moving through life in a distracted state because of the constant stream of updates, messages and reminders coming at them from their phones. As a result, everyday life is a more complex experience than it was 20 years ago.  

This constant stream helps us to get more done in life but there is also the danger that we are more distracted as we work, drive or carry out our chores. The result of a distracted mind unfortunately is an uptick in accidents and errors. 

 Not for error-busters. Whatever their walk of life they have this in common: absolute mental focus on the task in hand.   

The takeaway? Keep your mind as clear as you keep the dash of your car. If something is distracting you, schedule a time to take care of it and refocus on your current task. 

6. Error-busters use these principles around the clock

Top performers like Lewis Hamilton and Simone Biles don’t leave their hard-won lessons in the competitive arena that is their ‘workplace’. In fact, they have rewired their brains so that these principles are active and engaged in their personal lives and throughout their downtime hours. They have practiced and repeated their in-the-minute responses so often that they have become a habit. 

You can follow their lead and do the same, automatically minimising unforeseen incidents through regular practice. Worried you might not have the stamina or perseverance? Consider using a digital nudge companion to keep you on target. 

The results are surely worth it, especially for the peace of mind that comes with a dramatically improved daily and working life. A good night’s sleep is good for a better atmosphere at work and at home. And who doesn’t want that? Making toast, boiling a kettle for a cup of coffee, popping open the bonnet of your car to check the oil: even the most mundane of tasks comes with the risk of accident – a risk that is minimised if you…    

  • Take a moment every so often to check in with your psychological or physical state: Am I frustrated? Am I rushing or fatigued? Am I just on autopilot, complacently going through the motions?  
  • Act on any insight you gained through this state-check and ‘self-trigger’ to take any action necessary to scale done the hazardous energy you have identified. 
  • Whenever you are on task, whether clearing out the gutters or finalising a consignment, keep your eyes and mind on the work in progress.
  • ake those insights with you! At work, at home, or out and about: error-busting principles keep you and your colleagues and loved ones in better shape for life’s many challenges. 

Thanks for reading. To help you start with becoming an error-buster, we recommend checking in your psychological or physical state using our Rate Your State tool. You may also be interested in trying out YOUFactors, a personal companion that empowers you to sustain the good habits of the error busters.  

YOUFactors has been developed out of decades of research and workplace experience, using brain science for end users to optimise safety and performance through customisable prompts and timely nudges, rating systems, interactive videos, analytical tools and social sharing to leverage group support. Whatever level of interaction you need, the YOUFactors digital companion app can provide it. 

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