Top 5 Time Management Tips for Testers

We’ve all been there. The week when you are bogged down with so many projects you have to stay late and wake up early in an attempt to catch up on work. As a tester you have to deal with managing developers’ perceptions of code, trying to convince them there is a bug in the code all while running load tests, monitoring the application and identifying bottlenecks. There’s just not enough time in the day to get what you need done.

To help you we have gathered the top 5 time management tips testers use to maximize their time and get projects out the door.

1. Planning is essential

When you are tasked with multiple projects, planning is essential. A great place to start is simply planning your day. Get in the habit of starting each morning by writing a to-do list. You can keep a running to-do list on your computer in a note-taking application or word processor. Or you can go old school and keep a pen and paper close by to jot down the tasks you need to complete. According to the Huffington Post, the very act of writing things down gets placed in your long-term memory making you more likely to remember.

Make sure to clean your list from time to time and eliminate anything that just isn’t getting done. Always ask yourself: Is this meeting necessary? Can I delegate some of these tasks to another team member? Do I need to schedule appointments?

Get good at planning your days and you’ll find that your project planning skills will also quickly improve.

2. Multi-tasking doesn’t really work

You might have heard this one from friends or coworkers, “Oh, I’m a great multi-tasker.” Actually, according to research people who multi-task are actually less productive compared to those who choose to focus on one task at a time. It’s merely the satisfaction of getting multiple things done at once which makes people feel great.

The next time you find yourself in a developer meeting and on your computer monitoring metrics for a test you are running, just stop. Focus on one thing at a time, give your full attention to what is presented in front of you. Get your first task done then move on to the next.

3. Prioritize like crazy

Which brings us to the third point: prioritize.

Even though your performance testing follows a master plan, each day brings new challenges. Production problems, bugs and regressions, new code drops from the development team – the only thing you can truly expect is that your day won’t end up the way you expected it to. But not every new problem requires immediate attention. While it may feel great to kick the pants off a problem that’s just surfaced, if this is done at the expense of something more critical the impact could be substantial.

That’s why you need to be incredibly diligent about prioritizing your tasks. Never begin executing something new before assessing how important it is when compared to everything else on your list. Evaluate each new demand with respect to its urgency, revenue impact, customer visibility, and other key factors. This will ensure that the most critical things get executed early and won’t be sacrificed due to time pressure.

4. Set goals and deadlines

Setting goals and deadlines for any project is critical, however most testers forget to set their own deadlines and goals. When you make deadlines follow the SMART goals outline. Make your goals:

  1. Specific: Vagueness is the enemy of effectiveness. You want to know exactly when you’ve achieved your goals, so make them specific.
  2. Measurable: If your goal is to simply “make something better,” you’ve got no way to know if what you’ve done is meaningful. Set a measurement and then achieve it – that way you know.
  3. Attainable: Your goals need to be achievable and realistic, otherwise you’ll simply lose faith and give up.
  4. Relevant: Align your goals with current project tasks and objectives. Set goals that matter to you and to the people on your team.
  5. Timely: Your goals should have a clearly defined timeframe. Aim to accomplish things in days or weeks. Big goals may take a couple of months. Anything more than that should be broken down into smaller sub-goals.

Remember to celebrate your completed goals – either privately or publicly. It’s good to reward yourself and others once in a while.

5. Monitor where your time is being spent

A big step towards developing great time management skills is to know how your time is spent. Take a day or two to document each task you complete and how long it takes you to do it. Alternatively, you can download productivity apps like aTimeLogger, Tick, Toggl and more.

A handy trick to keep track of everything, if you aren’t a big app user, is to make a spreadsheet for the week and chunk it into half-hour slots. At lunchtime and before you leave, fill in where the majority of your time went for each half-hour. And be honest with yourself, if you spent 30-minutes reading an article from Facebook put that down.

Once you have recorded how you spend your time for a couple of days patterns will start to emerge and you will have a clear picture of where you can be more efficient.

Know Yourself

A large part of time management is about becoming aware of your behavior patterns. Once you become more aware of the things that get in the way of your productivity, you will find your own ways of dealing with them. Just take the time to figure it out, especially when you are bogged down with multiple testing projects.

One Response
  1. August 8, 2014

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