People working on a task can make errors along the way. How people deal with an error, however, depends on the type of error approach they apply. One approach, error management, focuses on increasing the positive and decreasing the negative consequences of errors. A second approach, error prevention, focuses on working faultlessly. In two experiments, we manipulated error approach through task instructions and measured on-task thoughts and off-task thoughts. In Experiment 1 (N = 78), error management resulted in more on-task thoughts, but no differences were found for off-task thoughts. Experiment 2 (N = 76) replicated the findings of Experiment 1, and further demonstrated that error management resulted in better analogical and adaptive transfer performance, and that these effects were mediated by on-task thoughts. Our findings point toward the benefits of error management instructions for people and organisations. Specifically, error management instructions make people more focused on the task during practice, as indicated by on-task thoughts, which in turn results in higher performance after practice.