One of my biggest challenges, when I test, is distractions.
A teammate might come with a “quick question” about a test I ran or a bug I reported yesterday. Or maybe someone will come to answer an email I sent a couple of hours ago.
It can be a couple of people walking next to my desk, talking about something they saw on Netflix last night.
And sometimes it is even me, finding something strange and getting up to ask the developer working on the feature about it.
Distractions are bad. They derail my line of thought, they make me lose my concentration, they throw me out of my “zone”, and force me to do a hard stop to the creative process I was working on.
Like any other machine, my mind is not good at handling hard stops.
And neither is yours.
We have setup costs, we waste a lot of time because of this.
We are like most machines out there. It takes us time to prepare ourselves and get to the point where we are in our productive zones.
And then when we hit the brakes to do that hard stop, it is just like those cartoons where the juggler looks away and drops all the balls she had in the air.
Once we handle this interrupt and try to restart the process, it takes a lot of time to get all the mental gear aligned and clean. We will have wasted a lot of time and effort trying to reach the place we were before, and many times we will not be able to return to it because our mind doesn’t work on hard-paved roads we can easily follow to return to the places we were before.
Learn to hang up a Do Not Disturb Sign on the door
If you do not want to be interrupted you need to stop those distractions from reaching you.
There is no level of meditation achievable by non-Buddhist-monks that will help you with this.
There is a simple solution. Start by closing the door and placing a sign that says “Working – Please do not disturb”.
Most of us don’t do this, we think it is anti-social, but actually, it is quite logical, and the reason doors were placed there. To close you from the outside world.
The sign is there so that people understand this is on purpose, and that you really do not want to be bothered with non-important stuff.
What happens when you work on cubicles or open spaces? How about you look for a room and take for 45-90 min (whatever your planned testing session is) and reserve it. Once again, place a sign on the door.
No rooms…? Yes, that has happened to me too.
Grab your headphones and play the music that will help you shut out the outside world. For some of us that might be Bach, for others, it might be Dave Grohl (for weirdos like me it is either of them depending on the day of the week).
And if needed set up a small sign you can place on your desk that reads WORKING – PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB, so that people understand you are working.
Notice: when you do this the first couple of times people will still not understand and disturb you (yes, they will read the signs and think it was a funny joke). So just explain it to them, after a couple of times they will understand.
If all else fails, just escape!
I mean it! Look for a place outside your office you will be able to concentrate.
For example, I am writing this at a Starbucks on the corner of South El Camino and 17th Ave in San Mateo, California.
Yes, there are hundreds of people walking in and out, but with my headphones playing acoustic guitar tracks at high volume it is really easy to concentrate. Also, none of the people here want to ask me a question about a low priority bug I reported 3 weeks ago…
You will also need a Do Not Disturb Sign on your virtual door
If you are somehow like me, you are connected via WhatsApp, Skype, Slack, and E-mail on your computer and on your phone.
Whenever a new message pops-up on my Computer’s WhatsApp I feel I need to check it out ASAP just to make sure it is not Elon Musk asking if I can come by to test drive a cool new feature on the Tesla Pickup Truck.
But then, 99 times out of 100 it is one of the 50 messaging groups I belong to, with a random message I don’t need to know (not now nor ever for that matter).
In short, if you are like me, then you need to disconnect from the virtual world just as you do from the real one.
Just close all apps, and make sure the people that matter know that for important things they need to CALL you.
It’s not bad to ask people to respect your time. But it takes time.
I think most people will understand when you tell them that you need to concentrate, and you are asking not to disturb you unless there is something important at stake.
It just takes time, because many of us live in a world that has gotten used to getting things NOW.
But once you ask for it, people really understand and even respect this.
This is not the first time I have stressed the importance of finding your testing zone and other helpful testing habits. I truly believe your surroundings have an impact on the quality of your software QA.
Here are some of my previous rants I think you’ll find interesting:
- Creating your “Testing Zone”
- An 8 min. routine to be a more accurate and productive tester
- Mindful Testing – something like meditation for your testing project
So what are your good focus supportive habits? let me know below in the comments.
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