Deconstructing a mistake

I made a scheduling mistake the other day and completely missed a call. After doing so, I went through the following process –

1. Apologize. The first step, as soon as I realized I made a mistake, was to apologize profusely. It sucked doing that and I felt horrible. I hate going late for meetings, let alone miss one altogether.

2. Understand what caused the mistake. When mistakes happen, they happen because multiple things go wrong at once. For instance, in this case, the call was scheduled at an unusual time during the weekend and I had somehow missed it in my review of the weekend’s calendar on the Friday. Was that the issue though? On digging deeper, the issue I landed on was that I’d done my week planning exercise in a hurry on Monday morning after a busy weekend. I generally spend ten minutes on Sunday morning going through all my meetings for the week and moving them from my calendar to my OneNote. The daily planning exercise that follows every evening builds on the ten minutes on Sunday as it is just a minute’s glance at the next day’s calendar to make sure we are in sync.

Planning has a high return-on-investment when things get busy. This was the price I paid for not having taken ten minutes at the beginning of the week.

3. Focus on a creative, constructive and corrective response. In short, focus on what you need to do and stop beating yourself up. I was lucky that the wiser friend who I’d stood up took it very nicely. He didn’t even want to talk about it – we just rescheduled and ended up working through what we needed to do later in the day.

While our past relationship helped make sure he didn’t read much into this, a miss like this can have negative consequences. And, that’s why I’ve learnt to use mistakes as an opportunity to examine my systems.

So, if you don’t do something well, at least make sure you extract maximum learning from the experience.