Going too fast at work
March 6, 2012 6:46 PM   Subscribe

I get data review and entry work done extremely fast with no discernible lack of quality. But, I also have a persistent feeling I'm doing things wrong or missing important details. How to fix this?

I have a position where I review contracts and then enter relevant details into a database. The expected time for us to get a contract read and entered is supposed to be 1-2 hours. I've been getting them done in 15-20 minutes. I've also had this happen at other jobs.

My mind seems to instinctively look for shortcuts or ways to work faster. In the past, I have had some issues with missing key details. Those things happened because I would listen to music or podcasts while working. I don't do that anymore. But, I still always have a paranoia that my work is getting done too fast and that I'm doing a bad job. I go back and check my work for accuracy, and it's usually all fine.

How can I get over this paranoia or alternatively, learn to work slower?
posted by reenum to Work & Money (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Would it work to use some extra time to review your earlier work? Like, do a bunch, take a break, then go back and double check. Sounds like you'll still be faster than the norm by a lot.

With time, this might help resolve some of your paranoia and then you can do occasional spot checks.

Also, whatever you do, remember that everyone makes mistakes sometimes, so when you do, it doesn't mean it's your work style that's an issue, just that you are human.
posted by rosa at 7:07 PM on March 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: This has basically been almost every job I've had in the last four-five years, and I've had the same issues. Doing the work, putting aside, and then going back to check it again is the best method I've found to do this. Trying to slow yourself down past your optimal speed may actually trigger more mistakes.

Also, if you're a power user who actually puts mind into refining how you do paperwork, these times aren't made for you. They're meant for people who click on different fields instead of hitting tab, use right-click menus instead of keyboard shortcuts, and so on. My bosses have regularly been surprised at my ability to do some process or another in a few seconds when it takes them up to a minute. Multiply that by however many times and 15-20 minutes for an allotted hour makes sense.

This is going to sound weird, but I got over my paranoia by repeatedly screwing up. Now, this might not work for you depending on your boss, but my boss doesn't really give me shit when I make a mistake because I've got a really good track record. Every time I do something wrong, I make sure to triple-check the field on every following piece of paperwork I processed. By the twentieth time, the proper method comes naturally, and if I screwed up again, it was an honest mistake that you can't be expected to not make occasionally.
posted by griphus at 7:19 PM on March 6, 2012 [7 favorites]

Best answer: What helps me is to have a written-out checklist of everything I need to check, in the order in which I typically check it. I don't actually use a pen and check off every item as I do it, but I use it as a reference. It helps if the checklist is succinct, and if you post it within your line of sight.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:27 PM on March 6, 2012 [4 favorites]

I go back and check my work for accuracy, and it's usually all fine.

I don't see anything wrong with doing this - you complete the work quickly and then check it. Seems like a good, thorough, and yet efficient way to do things.

You'll just have to retrain your brain to stop thinking that you're always making mistakes (which is untrue) whilst remembering that sometimes you will make a mistake and that that's okay.
posted by mleigh at 7:39 PM on March 6, 2012

Best answer: Don't dismiss the possibility that your shortcuts might actually reduce the probability of making mistakes. So it may be counterproductive to do things the slow way which might just end up introducing hundreds of opportunities for mistakes to be made.

Your approach of working fast and spending the time you've saved checking your work sounds like a good way to do things. Following your instincts to look for shortcuts, could you try to make your verification process more efficient? Then you would have the best of both worlds: working fast and doing thorough checks.

To help with the paranoia, perhaps you could try keeping a log of your work and the checks that you made? That way, even if you do end up with a mistake, you can check your log and see that you did in fact do your due diligence. And if you're just worried for no reason, you can look at the log and be reminded that you checked your work and it was fine.

If you do make mistakes, keep track of them in case there is a pattern. Then you'd have something specific to look out for next time and you would have at least one less type of mistake to be paranoid about.
posted by Bokmakierie at 7:46 PM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: That paranoia is the reason your work is so good. It's a feature, not a bug.
posted by fshgrl at 8:26 PM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

I get data review and entry work done extremely fast with no discernible lack of quality.

You use this word, discernible. Let's just say it rings some alarm bells in my head. Who is doing the discerning?

In lab book review I've had different co-workers who would notice nitpicky issues in the text but "1.5x+12=21, x = 8" would have been fine with them every time; others who might have caught this, but missed the fact that I didn't sign the page; and then the occasional type who would complain about one's penmanship. I'm sure each of these people through they were doing quality work, and that the debate, about whose work was the most quality, would have been long and contentious with minimal agreement as to what was important.

A little check list, like Metroid Baby suggests seems like a good idea to me. It shows the people on high that you really do give a damn and are methodical, but it keeps you honest about checking everything that needs checking.

That said, don't discount the possibility that the time was set based on a person who was actually writing the next Great American Novel at their desk or some such.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:13 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

What Kid Charlemagne said! A lot.

Do you have any contact with people who rely on this data? Are you supposed to input, period? Or are you expected to flag or review weird stuff?

Most likely, you're fine but a review of where the data comes from and where it goes might help you make a worthwhile checklist.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 10:00 AM on March 7, 2012

Response by poster: I am supposed to flag odd or incorrect items, and I have daily meetings with the project team to go over the previous day's questions.

So I do have some skin in the game.
posted by reenum at 12:27 PM on March 7, 2012

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