Dumb Things We Do (& Tricks to Keep Errors at Bay)

by Christine - From Dates to Diapers on May 13, 2009

I just finished reading a Reader’s Digest article called 7 Dumb Things We Do. In this piece Joseph T. Hallinan laid out some of the mistakes we make and tips on how we can avoid making them.

Of all of the dumb things he says we do – like overlooking details – multi-tasking made the list. Now, I totally get that talking on the phone while driving is a bad idea, but I’m a busy homeschooling mom who also has six kiddos to love on, care for and teach, a husband to keep happy, a household to manage, and a blog to keep up. I always thought that I was doing a good job of trying to get a bunch of stuff done at once, but now I’m not so sure.

Hallinan tells us that the to-do list in our brains is known as “working memory,” and it keeps track of all the short-term stuff we need to remember. But switching from task to task creates problems. “The contents of our working memory can evaporate like water in a desert,” he says. “After only about two seconds, things begin to disappear. Within 15 seconds of considering a new problem, you’ll have forgotten the old problem. In some cases, the forgetting rate can be as high as 40 percent. Workplace studies have found that it takes up to 15 minutes to regain a deep state of concentration after a distraction.”

I can see that. I often lose concentration when flittering from one thing to another. Burnt pancakes and sour laundry are often the result of my multi-tasking efforts. But, since I can’t turn off my kiddos while I’m trying to cook, or my hubby while I’m trying to clean, maybe I need to just slow down!

All joking aside, slowing down is truly one of the helpful “tricks” I picked up to avoid mistakes and become more productive. In fact, it was Hallinan’s trick #4.

Slow down. Multitasking can cause our error rate to go up, as our attention becomes divided. It makes sense to slow down and do things one at a time. The slower approach may actually be more efficient in the long run.

There are actually eight tricks to keeping errors at bay. I urge you to go see which dumb things you do and how you can avoid them. Let me know what you discover!



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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Stephanie May 13, 2009 at 12:25 am

I’ve learned to use a timer if I have to step away from things for a time that I need to remember by a certain point. It helps me to keep laundry going and to get leftover food in the fridge. That way I don’t have to remember them until it’s time to do something about them.


Cheryl May 13, 2009 at 5:47 am

That was a really good article. I love Reader’s Digest, it is good every single month. I love Ladskas :) I completely agree with slowing down. It’s something I’m learning to do over time.


Renae May 13, 2009 at 7:10 am

Oh, now I know why I can’t remember anything. ;)


Screwed Up Texan May 13, 2009 at 7:14 am

I am the queen of forgetfulness. I am the mother of three small boys, an avid blogger, a wife, the leader for my neighborhood organization, and a member of my community’s crime watch board. It is neccesary for me to multitask. What I have found works for me is placing a small notepad and pen in my purse or pocket. On the notepad I write every morning what I need to accomplish for the day. If I dont get everything done, then those unfinished items go on my list for the next day. If I didnt keep this notepad handy, I would forget more than I like.


Felicia May 13, 2009 at 8:59 am

You know men can’t multitask so maybe this article is not all that great. I do agree with slowing down, that does help the error rate, but also, writing down what needs to be done helps keep you on track. I do find myself forgetting a project when I start working on something else, but when I write things down and go back to check things off it quickly reminds me. I guess now the process will be did you remember where you put your list.


Thebluestbutterfly June 9, 2009 at 1:28 am

I have been reading through this same article off-and-on since yesterday evening. I think there is a lot that I can learn about myself if I think about the points raised. At my workplace, I am definitely expected to multi-task (and would not have job stability if I didn’t).


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