We all have goals. We all want to do more and be more. There are many ways to be successfully, but the most important one is also the simplest – you have to get things done.
In other words, be productive.
By thinking about doing something, it does not get done. I wish it did, but it doesn’t.
So how do we combat the slump that we find ourselves in from time to time and save our ideas from evaporating even before they take shape?
Roughly, for Testers or working people in general, there are 2 things that need our productivity:
- At work.
- Personal or professional goals outside of work.
It is relatively easy to be productive at work. Here is why:
- There is the motivation; the fact that you get paid.
- There is structure; allocated work, targets, and due dates.
- There is recognition; a thank you email, a promotion, an award, etc.
- There is also fear. Reprimand, repercussions, and reviews are enough to push even the laziest of us.
The personal advancement goals are the ones that suffer the most.
Maybe you want to get a certification, try crowd-source testing alongside your full-time work, learn a new tool/technique, work on your startup, go into a different realm of your career, etc. but how many of you have started with a bang and left things off because:
- You got too busy.
- You are not finding the time.
- You have lost interest.
- None of the above. But you simply can’t bring yourself to pick it up again.
This happened to me many times. The disappointment is so huge that it could affect the ‘at-work’ productivity and the in-general, over-all well being.
Recommended read => How to Test Smarter
How to be A Productivity Junkie?
Here are a few lessons and methods that could help all of us in similar situations:
#1) Set Realistic Goals:
Start slow. To stay productive, we have to think slightly differently.
Finding time can be overwhelming. Let’s say I tell myself, “I will learn Automation using Selenium in a week” versus “For a week I will work on Selenium every day for at least 30 minutes”.
The later has a higher chance of succeeding. You are not in a hurry. You are not taking it on all at once. You can most definitely find 30 minutes in your day. And, when you are not overwhelmed and stressed, you are going to enjoy the process even more.
#2) Productivity is doing something when you have to do it:
Let’s say I spent an hour writing a draft of an article. After the hour, I edit it and realize I have to remove most of it. Now, that makes me feel very unproductive.
This is because I am confusing productivity with perfection.
Similarly, if you have tested a software for a day and found no defects – Does it mean you did not test and have not progressed?
Productivity is not perfection.
The important thing is to get work done. Over time, your one hour’s work might be a million dollars. But for now, your hour’s labor might just be an hour’s labor and that’s great.
#3) Procrastination is the opposite of Productivity:
Well, not quite literally. But, you know this is true. We stall, we make excuses, we delay, we defer- call it anything. We all do this.
Here are some ways to fix it:
- Start by doing a simple task that you know you can do and is quick and easy. Maybe answer an email, make your bed, answer a blog comment or comment on a blog, etc. Do something simple so you feel the accomplishment. Accomplishment craves more and you might end up doing more.
- Give everything 2-minutes of your time. If you have absolutely no interest in doing something, give it a 2-minute try. Chances are after the two minutes you might start feeling it and keep things going. This is like giving you a warm-up before the heavy work-out.
- Practice tough love: One of the best saying I ever heard and has made a phenomenal difference for me is: “No matter how you feel, Get up, Dress up and Show up.” A lot of times we convince ourselves that something is too hard, too far, too time-taking, etc. But, everything has to start somewhere. So, if it matters to you, do it.
- Stay in touch: Just like the 2-minute rule, there is also a two-month compost pile rule. If you keep away from something for too long, it decomposes. So, take a break now and then, but don’t let it be a long one so you lose touch. Whatever it is you intend to learn or do, keep doing it. Even if it is a little bit every day. If you love writing, write a sentence every day. If you want to learn a programming language, learn a concept every day. If you are preparing for certification, read at least a page of the long and tedious certification syllabus. Don’t let it out of your sight, because out of sight is out of mind
So, it doesn’t matter what you do. Just do it.
Ease it in and let it occupy your mind. Or it is going to talk you out of it. The only way forward is to out-smart your mind and yourself. :)
#4) Variety and Creativity are directly proportional to productivity:
Maybe not mathematically. But, the best way to stay on track on getting things done is to “mix it up”. Day after day if you are going to do the same things, it gets tedious.
Let’s say you have been working on the Test plan. When writing it for different applications, you use the same process, template, format etc. This is soon going to make you lose interest in it. Try a different format. Create a new format if you are feeling particularly adventurous.
On a given day, you want nothing to do with a Test plan? Take it easy. Try exploring the application. But don’t ditch the effort as a whole.
A few more tips:
- Reward yourself when you reach your milestones: Maybe take a walk, read a book, buy yourself a candy bar- whatever it is, appreciate yourself and feel proud.
- Forgive yourselves and pick up where you dropped: Sometimes, it is OK to fall behind. Make sure it is temporary and get back to it as soon as possible. Also, don’t be too hard on yourself.
- Avoid distractions. Tuck your phone away, turn off the chat, keep the TV remote far away :), etc.
- Find the time of the day that works best for you. Some are morning larks and some night owls- know who you are and try to stick to the same time consistently.
- Maintain checklists. Include some fun things on it, such as calling a friend on their birthday. This will make you look forward to the list itself.
Being productive is the only way to be a better version of you from yesterday.
Finally, to quote Paul J.Meyer:
“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.”
About the author: This article is written by STH team member Swati.
I hope you will share your tips and techniques for productivity in the comments below. What are your main problem areas and how do you overcome them?