How many mistakes do you make each day at work? The chances are we all make more errors than we really know. After all, I am sure many of us have sent out emails where the proofreading was not as good as it might have been…!

Of course, annoying as these mistakes may be, they are not fundamentally a problem. But if you make an error in the price you submit in a proposal, putting the decimal point in the wrong place, for instance, then the consequences can be serious. And what if you are in tech support and give the wrong advice, thereby exposing a company’s computers to all kinds of threats? Sure, that’s what professional indemnity insurance is for, but you  don’t want to be claiming too often…!

The real issue here is how we avoid making mistakes in the first place. You make more typing errors when you are tired, I imagine, but when are you most likely to make mistakes when it comes to advice or pricing things, for instance? New research shows that you are more likely to make mistakes when you are constantly interrupted by the Internet.

It turns out that distractions are tied to our error rate. The more we are distracted, the more mistakes we make.

Now, of course, that is common sense. But think about most offices these days – they are a constant source of distraction. One minute you are working on a document, the next you are looking at Twitter and then an email alert attracts your attention, before you look at that SMS text message from someone reminding you of an impending meeting. The modern office worker lives in an ocean of distraction.

And that is not good. It means that the numbers of mistakes being made is bound to be higher than it once was when the Internet was not on every desk.

The research implies that if you want to reduce the mistakes you make and increase your productivity you need to switch off the Internet and just concentrate on the task in hand.

But therein lies a problem; if you switch off the Internet you cannot easily access many of the resources you need to work, especially if your rely on “software as service” or cloud computing to do your job each day.

It means there is only one option and that is to be more strategic with your use of the Internet. For instance, only check your emails a couple of times a day, schedule in your Twitter use, have an “appointment” for your LinkedIn time and so on. Unless we all become stricter with our approach to using the Internet, this new research implies that the amount of mistakes made in business will simply rise.


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