The Habits We Take With Us

Today will be one of those “keeping it real” posts, where I share something I screwed up, how I fixed it, and what I learned from the experience. Sometimes problems can arise simply from bad habits.

This wasn’t a big deal, but it felt like a big deal at the time. Many years ago, I shifted jobs from NASA to a much less bureaucratic small business. I had a press release to put out. I figured I could crank it out in no time to impress the boss with the delivery speed.

My boss raised an eyebrow at my speed, to be sure, but he also caught a couple errors.

Embarrassed, I went back to my desk and reread the release. Sure enough, there were the two errors the boss (the CEO, no less) found, plus a third mistake I really should have caught.

I fixed the release after rereading it a couple times, then turned it back over to the boss after a more judicious turnaround time.

One thing I’d forgotten about moving from a large organization to a small business is that there are fewer layers between myself and the end user/reader of a deliverable. I’d let my quality slip a bit because unconsciously I knew there was a bit of a safety net under me…someone down the line would catch any errors.

That’s a dangerous assumption to make. The best approach–whether you’re in a large or small organization–is to produce your best work before you turn it in rather than rely on an editorial cycle to catch a do-over. There’s always a chance that an error won’t be caught, and that it will cascade to audiences you don’t want seeing it. Then you have a whole new set of problems, all of which might have been avoided if you’d done it right the first time.

So the lesson simply is: don’t count on your editorial safety net. It won’t always be there.

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About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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