An efficient tester

Are you efficient? Do you work in a well-organised and competent way? I think most of us aspire to be effortlessly organised, to be in control of our lives. Some people raise children, run businesses, and still manage to find time to file their papers. The rest of us go around in a haze of hastily bought birthday cards, missed appointments, and mental to-do lists.

Unfortunately efficiency isn’t something that turns up in your life to sort things out like a benevolent fairy godmother. Efficient people have systems and techniques to help them organise their life.

To-do lists are a great way to keep track of tasks but if yours looks anything like mine they they can get overwhelming. Spending time at the beginning of each day choosing the most important tasks, the things that really, really, must happen today, can help. Once you’ve chosen the ‘must do’ tasks you simply hide everything else away for another day.

Batching tasks can also be a great way of saving time. If you have three bank transfers to make then doing them all at the same time will save you two online account log ins. Bulk buying birthday cards will save you multiple trips to the card shop. Grouping meetings together keeps useful chunks of the day available for hands on work.

Tools like Evernote, Feedly, and Instapaper help save important, or interesting things. I find the volume of interesting articles shared on Twitter to be overwhelming. Setting up an IFTTT channel to save starred items to my Evernote account has been a huge help. Now instead of trying to read or categorise links as they come up I save them away and deal with them all in one go.

Automation can be another way to remove waste. A simple automated script to create test users, or set the system under test into a desired state can save considerable time and effort. However, as with all automation, there are creation and maintenance costs associated with getting the script running, and keeping it running as the system develops.

Recently the fantastic Danny Dainton reminded me how important it is to automate small tasks as well as big ones. Removing a couple of mouse clicks a day might not seem like much, but over time those seconds will add up to big time savings.

One of my favourite tiny tasks to automate is editing URLs. When I’m testing I frequently switch between test environments and production ones. It only takes a second or two to highlight and change the necessary part of the URL but over an entire day these few seconds start to add up. A simple JavaScript bookmarklet takes this tiny task and makes it a simple button click.

As I go through my working week I look for monotonous, or repetitive tasks. Are there ways to batch these tasks? Can I use Boomerang to schedule emails in advance? Maybe I can find, or create, a tool to do this task for me. Each time I save time, I’m creating an opportunity to do something better, to become a more efficient tester.

How do you make yourself more efficient? Do you have a favourite tool or script to help you?

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Tester connections

In 2011 I had coffee with someone who would go on to make a massive difference to my life. That person was Rosie Sherry. We were having coffee before one of the Cambridge Tester meetups that Rosie ran. It was one of those meetups where James Bach just happens to be speaking. One of those meetups that seem to be special to the Ministry of Testing family.

Over the years Rosie has personally introduced me to amazing testers. She’s organised events and created online communities that have led to me knowing so many more great people. Many people comment on how strong the UK testing community is. That strength comes from having someone like Rosie cajoling, encouraging, and quietly connecting us together.

The TestBash conference has turned into an event where you can hear great talks, but also a place where you can catch up with or meet some of the world’s best testers. It was at TestBash that I met my Weekend Testing co-facilitators Dan Billing and Neil Studd. A year later I got to know my awesome co-tester Kim Knüp.

Over the years I’ve been encouraged to write articles for The Testing Planet, film things for The Dojo, contribute to The Software Testing Club, speak at TestBash, and host Masterclasses.

I don’t think I’m the only one who has appreciated, and benefited from all the hard work that Rosie puts in to create an amazing testing community. Maybe today is the day that you return the favour by buying a TestBash ticket, signing up to the Dojo or even contributing some of your own ideas.