Bookkeeping is a field with a lot at stake; and a whole lot of ways to mess up. Although there are many specific mistakes that affect bookkeepers, almost all of those errors can be attributed to a single, universal, human shortcoming — oversight. Could this be bookkeeping’s biggest enemy?
What is oversight? Mirriam-Webster defines it as, “an inadvertent omission or error”, which is obviously correct (not to mention pleasantly succinct). But I feel that the idea of oversight deserves a little more than that five-word definition. As something that has plagued human endeavors since the dawn of time, this essential human frailty merits closer examination.
What is (and isn’t) oversight
To better understand oversight, let’s first look at what it isn’t. To that end, don’t trust the thesaurus. There are many words in the English language that simply don’t have a true synonym. But because the hard-working folks at Merriam-Webster couldn’t stomach to leave a thesaurus entry blank, they tend to include similar words instead.
Let’s look at some of those false synonyms to help better understand what oversight is. The most common words you’ll find are “mistake” and “error”. An oversight is both a type of mistake, and a type of error. But not all mistakes and errors are oversights. An oversight is a unique type of mistake – one in which the error was made by accidental omission, or failure to notice something.
Many errors are made because someone doesn’t understand a concept, or how to perform certain processes. Oversights, on the other hand, don’t rely at all on one’s level of knowledge or expertise.
An oversight is forgetting to add baking soda to your cake batter. An error is trying to bake the cake in a microwave.
How to Limit the Slip-ups Due to Oversight
So, whether in bookkeeping or baking, these 4 quick tips will help you avoid oversight:
Take a Break
when you’re burnt out, you can expect the oversights to pile up. Forgetting to file an important tax form, drafting an important e-mail and forgetting to hit send—these tiny slips can cost your business huge amounts of money. Help keep your bookkeeping sharp by remembering to occasionally put up your feet.
Confidence is a good thing, but when you start feeling like you can do something in your sleep, get ready for some rude awakenings. Many bookkeeping tasks are predictable and repetitive, which can lead people
to “tune out”.
Enlist a Second Set of Eyes
When you stare at a spreadsheet long enough, they sometimes start to look like those Magic Eye drawings from the 90’s. When you find yourself deleting, then re-adding the same commas, for example, it’s time to ask for some help. A second set of eyes is often the best way to catch those tiny little oversights that would otherwise go unnoticed.
Establish (and Stick To) Strict Protocols
Every one of your bookkeeping processes should have a clearly defined, stepwise protocol to ensure efficiency and accuracy. If you occasionally do tasks in different ways, or skip some steps, you’ll greatly increase your risk of oversight. Even when a deadline is hot on your heels, make sure to stick to your protocols and best practices. A filing that’s 15 minutes late is much better than an on-time filing that’s filled with errors.
Nobody said bookkeeping was easy. But bookkeepers who use patience, protocols, and vacations to sharpen their work will undoubtedly benefit from fewer oversights. And if all that sounds like way too much for you to handle, it might be time to invest in a virtual bookkeeper to help your finances stay afloat.