From Crisis to Glory – Coping with Stress As A Software Tester

From Crisis to Glory

I was fortunate enough to get a speaking slot at EuroSTAR 2016. My talk was on my experiences with falling ill with stress. How I got back on my feet and what I do to take better care of myself. I thought I would share the most important points from the talk with you guys here on the Test Huddle.

Take Care of yourself

I was the type of guy who prioritized work over family. I was always available – answering emails late in the evening or working extra hours. I never said no to my boss or my colleagues – Thereby constantly taking on new tasks and assignments. My thoughts were that by doing this I was showing a high work ethic.

When I was home I was prioritizing my kids and wife over myself. This is initially a good strategy to keep a happy marriage, but in the long term, you yourself burn out.

The most important piece of advice I will give you is – TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF FIRST. You need to do stuff that you find interesting or that you can find peace with. Psychologists call this finding your Flow. If you have a hobby – then stick to it. If you do not have a hobby, then take up running – that’s what I do – or some other activity that you enjoy, and that can take your brain away from thinking about finances, the pressures of work or what ever is on you mind. When you find inner happiness then you have the metal surplus to take care of others.

Work overload

As I said above, I never say no. This combined with the bad delegation skills results in a lot of work landing on my desk. I am sure many of you experience the same thing. When a lot of work piles up, you quickly run out of time to solve the tasks. What do you do? Well, I think most of us add hours to the day, and maybe add weekends to the workweek. Is this a viable solution? NO! – Because you are not taking care of yourself, and you will ultimately loose the will to work.

You need to learn to prioritize. As a team lead, I created team goals. Then I created personal goals, which were aligned with the team goals. Any new tasks that appeared had to be measured up towards these goals. One way of doing this was buy using a matrix, with Importance up the y-axis and them versus me/the team on the x-axis – like this one below:


These tasks are important to other people or departments. They do not fit with the team goals and are not related to any active project or tasks, but are seen as important.


You must try and squeeze these in to your schedule. If you do not have the time avaialbe then ask your manager for guidance.

These tasks are important to me and my team. They fit with the team goals, and or are important to the tasks and projects we are working on.



I will solve these first


These tasks are not important to other people, but some how they landed on your desk. If they are not important, then don’t solve them. Go back to the task owner and say that you do not see the importance and do not have the time, so they need to find some one else.



These tasks are not important, but you would like to accomplish them some day. When you have time in your schedule you will try and complete these, otherwise they just get deferred or thrown into the bin.


When you are working with goals and this matrix then never say yes to a task up front. Always answer that you will look into the possibilities and get back to them.

Every morning I started my day with a personal planning session. I looked at my email to get an idea of what has come in – especially to see if there is anything of high importance. Thereafter I schedule my time by blocking off my calendar with the various tasks that I need to solve. Then I stuck to it – as much as possible.

Good enough

The final thing I want to share with you is that they work that you do only has to be “good enough”. Now good enough varies from company to company and probably country to country. But good enough means that the tasks is solved in such a way that it will work and fulfil the intention. It does not need to be pixel-perfect. So go and investigate where your or your company’s “good enough” threshold is, and don’t waste time trying to make things perfect.


About the Author


Martin Zedeler was a staff sergeant in the Danish army for a number of years before transitioning into a civilian life. Currently he heads the test department at PensionDanmark, where he manages and leads the mainly consultant based test team. He has eight years of experience from some of Denmark’s largest IT departments. Requirements Engineering, Test Management and process improvement have always been interests in his career. He is slowly transitioning from a very structured, process orientated and at times bureaucratic personality to a more pragmatic and heuristic one. In his spare time he takes care of his daughters, does a bit of DIY on his old house or does some Crossfit.
Find out more about @mczedeler