I’m not immune to making mistakes.
It’s a rare day when I don’t make three of them.
Like the other day, when I neglected to notice that the lid to the oatmeal I was going to make was not securely latched (mistake #1 probably from the last time I opened it) and that picking up said oatmeal by its lid was not ideal (mistake #2) which then led to the scattering of said oats all over the floor instead of in the pot on the stove (big mistake #3).
Some mistakes, like that one, are easy to clean up. Others can create a bigger mess.
That time I spoke out of turn in the meeting, offering a spur-of-the-moment joke that – it turns out – no one thought was funny.
That time I misjudged the amount of space between my car and the parking structure columns between which I was attempting to park.
That time I hit “send” on the email complaining about a person without noticing I was sending it TO the actual person I was complaining about.
That time I lost my iPhone in the produce aisle and spent the next half an hour racing through the supermarket wondering why am I such a mess?
I consider myself to be a skilled and confident person. Yet I’m prone to making mistakes like these more often than I’d like to admit.
And each of these mistakes has one thing in common, something that is very easy to correct if only I’d have taken the time to realize it.
When I’m in a rush or feeling rushed or simply rushing for the sake of getting something done sooner or faster, I make mistakes like these that become more difficult to clean up.
How about you? Have you ever worn two similar, but clearly different, shoes to work as a result of rushing to get out of the house? (Been there, done that).
Have you ever landed on a conclusion without fully considering all options on the table? (Guilty as charged).
Have you ever been so excited to start on a project that you leaped right in without fully thinking through a strategic order of steps? (Hello, entrepreneurship adventure!)
With so much to do and so little time, it’s understandable that we rush through our days, hoping to complete our To Do lists before the time is up, aiming for productivity over perfection, and eyeing the finish line like someone is holding a timer.
I have strong activator, futuristic, and competition strengths which can be an asset when used appropriately and also a downfall when I rely on them too instinctively. (Thanks to Sarah Elkins who helped me discover these strengths through her StrengthsFinders coaching).
I’d use those strengths more strategically and efficiently if I’d just SLOW DOWN.
This can be hard for me. I’m a racehorse, not a turtle. There are many things I’d like to accomplish and there’s no better time than NOW so let’s get started!
But there are benefits to slowing the pace. More time to perfect the message. More person-to-person conversation. More proofreading before hitting send.
I wouldn’t have scraped along the parking structure column or left my iPhone by the avocados or arrived at work wearing two different shoes if I had simply slowed down.
And at work, I wouldn’t have rushed the feedback or sent the errant email, or offered the joke if I had taken the time to give thought to the recipient and how I might be received.
Speeding, after all, accounts for more than 25% of traffic accident fatalities each year.
In what ways are you rushing through your days and making similar mistakes?
If you’re a racehorse, be a racehorse. But so you don’t stumble out of the gates, take the appropriate amount of time to set yourself up for success with these 10 tips:
✅ Do one thing at a time. Multi-tasking can be a disaster!
✅ Pause before responding. Don’t let reactions lead the conversation.
✅ Outline an action plan before starting.
✅ Stop trying to squeeze in just one more thing. At some point, productivity is counter-productive.
✅ Be aware of your surroundings (parking structure column) and who you are surrounded by (co-workers with a very different sense of humor).
✅ Proofread before sending. Better yet, add the recipient to the “To” line after you’ve read the message.
✅ Be intentional with your words. Consider the influence they might have.
✅ Aim to be present in all present moments.
✅ Be aware of when you most often make mistakes. When you’re rushed? Tired? Overwhelmed? Take stock of your emotional state before proceeding.
✅ And you can always do a little less. Yes, you can!
There’s no one judging yourself more harshly than you. Today’s “To Do” list likely has items that can always carry over until tomorrow.
Like grocery shopping. I didn’t get to it today. I’ll get to it tomorrow. If you need me, I’ll be in the produce aisle, hopefully wearing a pair of matching shoes with my iPhone in my purse, rather than tucked among the potatoes.
Valerie Gordon is a former Emmy-winning TV producer, a lifelong storyteller, and the author of “Fire Your Narrator! A Storyteller’s Guide to Getting Out of Your Head and Into Your Life.” Through The Storytelling Strategist, the career and communications firm she founded in 2017, she speaks at conferences and works with corporations, helping audiences of all sizes to use the power of strategic storytelling to grow their careers, build strong teams, and speak with impact and influence (and humor!)