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Issue 47

Time management and Energy management in testing

Roxana Soporan
Tester @ISDC
TESTING

At least once in our lifetime, while working in IT, we have read an article or a book where "time management" or "energy management" were mentioned, or at least used a planner to organize, prioritize and plan the tasks. Time management and Energy management are not new concepts, but they still influence our daily lives.

Time management relates to organization, planning and things that are more tangible, while Energy management relates to more intangible aspects: the feelings one may experience, the sleep hours that one needs to be fresh or the productive hours within the day.

These two concepts shoud be approached differently. Here are some tips & tricks to tackle each of them.

But first, let us talk about time. Time is a non-renewable resource. Once it has passed, you can never turn it back. There are two types of time (undefined homogeneous medium, analog to space, in which an irreversible succession of phenomena appears): clock time, where there are 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, etc, a time that never changes, and relative time, a time that flies away or by contrary, refuses to pass. Think about the high-school classes when you knew you had a test that day. Therefore, time expands or shrinks depending on the activity you do, on whether it is a pleasurable one or not.

Many tools and gadgets on devices nowadays are meant to help us manage time and energy. Yet there is a reason why many times these do not work as expected. The reason is that these tools and gadgets are meant to govern clock time. The reality, however, is that in real life, time flies and does not care about clock time.

Despite all, there is some good news as well: time can be managed by ourselves, we can expand it or shrink it. We have to let go of mental limitations such as "I don't have sufficient time" or "This is not the right moment to do it".

As testers, when you are involved in multiple projects, you also have mentorship or leadership roles in specific activities. Therefore, you are frequently interrupted. These interruptions cannot be eliminated or ignored, because you cannot turn your back on you colleagues in times of need. You can, however, decide how much time and energy you can allocate, as well as choose the timing to do it.

Below are a few tips and tricks that you can use to improve your Time management and Energy management. Use those that resonate best with you. My advice to you is for you to come back and re-check these tips, after a few weeks, so that you may see which ones you successfully applied in your life and which ones you can then take into consideration to improve yourselves, step by step.

Time management

1.Always keep a planner or an agenda nearby

They are ideal for organizing tasks and write down ideas, action points, decisions, or prioritizing tasks you need to take care of. This way, you will not forget to send a promised email or to finalize your action points anymore.

2."Make it easy and fun to get started".

Pick a colorful agenda, or a black one, whatever provides you with a good mood. You can buy a pencil if this makes you feel happy, or start with a coffee in the morning.

In other words, start the day with a smile.

3.Spend 30 minutes, each morning, to plan ahead the day and write down all the tasks you need to take care of in your colourful agenda.

Remember that a day has 8 hours. Plan your tasks in such a way that you will not overload yourself. By the end of the day, try to have few if any unfinished tasks. Each task should have an estimation, so you can use that in your daily planning.

If a new important task appears in the day, compare it with the others on your list, and if it is mandatory, redo the prioritization. It is all about priorities.

4.Start with the most important tasks.

Always look at the big picture. For example, if you know that the second user story comes "in testing" soon, and your colleague needs a review for the test cases, start with that review, so your colleague can start testing.

5.Establish a main communication channel when you are under time pressure.

We should eliminate disturbances as Pinterest, Facebook notifications, even skype or email. If you are pressured by time, choose one communication channel through which you can be contacted. It could be either phone, email, skype, anything that is comfortable for you and to which you have easy access. Choose to focus only on one communication channel rather than on six-seven channels.

6.Learn to set expectations.

If you are pressured by time, if you need to finish testing a specific user story by 14 o'clock and if your colleagues ask for your help, ask them to wait for a short time if you are in the middle of your testing, thus boosting your productivity. Make them aware of the context and they will understand.

Moreover, you can kindly ask your team, which is in a stand up meeting, not to disturb you until 14 o'clock, unless there is a bottleneck for them (see point 4). You can also mention the reasons why you do not want to be disturbed.

Do not forget to come back after you finish your task! If you do not want to forget about it, write it down in your agenda.

7.Take short breaks.

They help you relax, detach and see your task with fresh eyes. When we write test cases or perform exploratory testing, detachment has an important role in the creation process. Breaks are more efficient if you stand up from your computer and change the scenery.

8.Focus.

If you work better in a less populated environment, take your laptop and go in a meeting room to create your Sprint Report. If you work better with music, create a playlist that works for you. For example, I like to listen to chill music in the morning and playful music in the afternoon. The thing that matters is to create an environment that helps you get focused.

9."Work smarter, not harder".

Choose not to be a small robot that takes the tasks one by one from the queue. Try to visualise them first. Maybe, you could combine some tasks to be more efficient. I'm not talking about multitasking. Let us say you have to make a deployment that takes 10 minutes, but you have two bugs that can be tested in another project. You can test those two bugs while the deployment is being done, if possible. You do not have to keep your eyes on the logs for 10 minutes. You do not have to check if there are errors every second that goes by. Do not worry. If there are errors, they will not disappear.

10.Cut or mark the tasks that are finalized from the agenda.

That will give you a sense of accomplishment and bring you satisfaction.

Energy management

1.Nutrition, sport, sleep and rest

Our daily dose of energy is ensured by the nutrition, the sport, and the sleep-rest balance we have. All of these, have a fundamental role in the energy the human body produces, from a physiological and biological point of view.

We should not forget to eat healthy and to get enough sleep, at the least.

2.Observe in which part of the day you are the most productive and make the best out of it

You will see that you will resemble Harap-Alb, that grew in a year, as others did in seven years. In our case, the quality and quantity of the tasks solved in an hour, may cover our duties over seven unproductive hours.

Some of us are more productive in the morning, while some of us are more productive in the afternoon. We need to identify in which category we are, so we can manage our energy better. We could plan the most complex tasks that require more focus in that part of the day, if the prioritization allows us to.

3.Keep your desk clean.

The order and discipline that surrounds us is often reflected in our thoughts and peace of mind.

If everything is nice and clear, you will see that you can be more productive, and you will not spend time searching for your favorite pen between a big pile of papers. This rule applies to computer data as well. Keep your desktop clean, and organize your folders based on the projects you are working on.

4.What drains your time? What drains your energy?

There are things that drain our time and energy. For example, skype groups with birthdays, projects, or even groups of friends. Once we acknowledge them, it is good to establish how much time and energy we want to spend on that.

5.Choose the moment you go home well.

If you feel happy about how much you accomplished today and you have half an hour left at the office, it is time to go home. Do not start a complex and time-consuming task if you have only half an hour left. You will most likely spend that time the next morning, and your estimations could be affected. You can stay the next day half an hour extra to fill in the hours. You will be happier if you leave the office with no "on-going" task/s and you will be satisfied that you completed all the tasks for that day.

6."Reward yourself".

This is one of the most important things, from my perspective. After a long day, it is good to do something that feeds your soul. This can be reading a book, going out with friends, taking photographs or spending quality time with the loved ones. Things that make us happy, recharge us and give us a boost of energy for the next day.

Have lots of productive days!

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