Time Management for Testers

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    Time Management is one of the most difficult tasks for any professional and software testers are no exception. How do you manage your time as a software tester in order to maximise productivity?

    Do you have any tools, plans or procedures that you use to manage your time?

    I look forward to learning some new time management techniques from you guys. 🙂


    Yes, totally agreed of the importance of the topic of time management!

    I remember working with a software developer, who had several simultaneous projects on-going. He had programmed some cool stuff to keep track how much time he’d spent in each of the projects. He told us, “I only need to click the icon in my desktop and the timer starts clicking ahead. When I’ve finished my task and it’s time to move for the next project during the day, I click halt for the timer”. In the end of the month, I have time spent in each of the projects. Of course I never asked him a copy of it. If anyone has a similar tool in hand, please let me know!

    I would use it for instance to know how long I did spend
    – in exploratory test for a use story or couple
    – in reading a use case, a specification, email, wiki etc.
    – in doing test planning, test case design
    – in a decent defect report
    – retest a defect
    – reading a book or an article in a focused way

    I would like to see the actual hours, minutes, and seconds, how much time I spent in each activity with a real focus. This would tell me a lot of things compared to keeping track how many working days was spent together with lunch, meetings, phone calls, coffee breaks, and chatting with my team members. I would like to get a grip, how much time does it in average take from me, for instance to write a really good bug report. After I have the data, I could think of how to use it, how to analyse it, how to interprete it and finally, how to improve, if needed.

    What would be also massively interesting would be to work with a type of activity wristband. How much did I actually moved and walked to talk with my team members? Did my blood pressure raise during the day (not necessarily possible to measure yet, or is it..?) and during which types of activities did it happen? How well did I slept after taking some work to home for the evening?

    It would be so interesting to know how my day went based on real time data. Even though it wouldn’t be the right answer for everything. Even though I would always prefer my inner instincts and senses over the data. Even though, I would need to be distracted at times to be able to focus again, as we learned from Zeger Van Hese in the last EuroSTAR.

    And especially, when a couple of words overheard in the table of the cafeteria, when you’re hanving a lunch with your team members plus some other people joining. At a sudden, you realize, there’s a new integration, you just heard of it. Or you understand something important of the new implementation. Or some one explains of something of a use case, you had understood in a different manner when it comes to the exceptions. Or this time you only talk about your favourite tv show. And then the other day…well who knows, and who would want to measure?


    Hi Seija,

    That is an excellent presentation you mentioned by Zeger van Hese. The title of this presentation was Testing in the age of Distraction‘ and zeger has done a webinar and eBook on this topic.

    View his webinar

    Download his eBook


    Daragh – thanks for the book 🙂

    Time management – what is this magic you speak of?! I am rarely able to tup a time limit on what and for how long i will be doing. For me the adaptability for teams needs holds higher priority than keeping and eye of be being in office for 8 hours and actually work only 6 😀
    few years back it was worse 😀 that was more like 12-14h in office and some 8h of actual work.

    This is defiantly a topic worth more than one workshop to start getting close to mastering it. I’d like to be trained/mentored in this area.
    For me time/task management falls into one pot. There is some picture in my head/my wall yet for others it looks like a mess 😀 Currently i’ve been blessed with rather proactive team so i have quite some freedom on when i do what.

    When planning my work i work around aspects what need to be done ahead, when is the most sufficient time to do this task, who will be affected if it’s not done.

    I keep in mind the sprint goals and tasks, and plan my tasks so i don’t fall behind the devs and can keep up with them even if they commit several stories in one day.

    Tool wise as we’re on Jira -> our agile board to track t he progress, Sub-task for me with my notes on the story, pointers for verification, points for checking (that will need to get automated, and so on). Strickly sprint related.

    paper notebook/notepad++ it i need to focus my thoughts/ think about something \\ i tend recheck my testing steps for scripts on paper to verify that i’m not missing anything.

    I also have a wall on which i pin up notes, remarks, concerns when they cross my mind, but i’m focusing on something else. Usually it’s additional work. I put it on post it/pin to wall and when I am done with the ongoing task (and perhaps few more high priority things, I go over the post-its, do necessary adjustments in my sub-tasks, if required (like ad additional pointers to check, OR add additional task, if it so happens that entire new TC needs to be created.

    then i just pick next one and carry on till i feel it’s ok to be done for the day.

    Not much of a time management thing – But to me this is the evaluation step i’m currently on – this helps me to think task wise. As i have sub-tasks – i report actual time spent on them. When 6h per day gets reached – i double-check if there is high priority to deal with on given day and finish it – if not – take it easy and what i feel still capable to do before i feel like going home 🙂

    Hope this counts as a response 🙂

    there was extra question how – can i manage my work and hangouts during work hours. For me hangouts are in the afternoon. Around that time – typically the most important things per day might have been done already. If not 🙂 i just stay longer in 😀 As we don’t have local community – these hangouts are the way how to reach out and get exposed to the tester awesomeness 🙂

    -^. ^=-
    ~~ ~~


    Once apon a time I actually attended a time management course. ha ha ha!!!
    I seem to remember that I did learn a couple of tricks. I guess I need another course to remind me what I am doing wrong.

    One thing I did at one company was to set aside a period each day for hands on, dirt under your finger nails fully focused scripting/execution. Time with out interuption. I even set up a small LED scroller over my desk warning people of during this period. EMail was shut down and the phone was turned down so all calls went to voice mail. It often meant I had a small queue at my desk at 11:00 in the morning at the end of my 2 hours dedications. But it’s amazing how my personal prodcutivity improved.

    I did this because I tend to work on the interupt method. i.e. I can be working on something, then someone will interupt and I will start working on that. Apparently there is a limit to the size of an average human interupt stack. But if the forgoten task is important it will re-interupt and get back on the stack. If the number or critical tasks appearing on your stack exceeds the size of the stack, you need help. And the word “No!” is possible, just as “Can I have…” is possible.

    In a lot of pressure situations I remember what fellow team lead once asked me: “What do you think will happen if you take 2 weeks of?”, this was followed up with: “Do you really think that will happen?”. She was right of course. If it doesn’t get done by you, someone else will, or it will wait.

    As for time spent on forums and webinars. I do have to be carefull and I try to use my outlook calendar to it’s full effect by blocking out time. At the moment it works as I have a lull between projects. But I expect to face some serious pressures and challenges leading up to XMas as everyone decides to hit the artificial end of calendar year wall. Webinars and forums are important to me and have a particular priority value added to them and they get added to the feed bucket. i.e. I they drop of the interupt stack they fall back into the feedbucket that feeds the interupt stack.

    I guess it’s like the backlog in scrum. There is only so much you can do in a sprint. To much and the lowest priority gets returned to the backlog. Mail notifs on threads and invites to webinars, and Daragh your invites to these threads work as interupts in the interupt stack to keep learning in the stack.

    I’m not sure I’ve explained that well. I’ve started to confuse myself.

    Simply put, I don’t manage my time well, I work on the last request for my time, then return to the previous thing that I was working on. Unless there was to many tasks and I forgot some. Certain tasks are added to my calendar for a particular time and the calendar notifs are another source of interupt.

    It works most of the time for me. But only because I can say no when the stack is overflowing. Delegation is also key.

    Some might recognise that same working in anything I write. My thoughts get interupted all the time. And if I forget to re-read a peice it can seem fragmented.


    I hope I am not overloading you with my invites Stephen 🙂

    I like the idea of the ‘disconnect from everything’ approach when working on projects but I find that most of my distractions require immediate attention. How do you prioritise tasks that require immediate attention?


    You’re not overloading me at all. I like your invites because they keep forums and learning on the stack.

    All tasks require immediate attention, unless otherwise stated, until the task has been investigated properly. Then I will determine priority based on:
    1- Expiry time, i.e. is there a time limit, and if I miss it does it matter.
    2- Seniority of the assigner. Seniority is based on, who I feel has most import/impact/influence/favours. Sometimes this can be a colleague I like asking a favour, other times the customers CTO.
    3- Who shouts the loudest and most. If you don’t bug me it’s not important is it?
    4- Sometimes it can be down to which annoyance I want to get rid of first.
    5- Sometimes it’s the old, ‘low lying fruit’, or ‘easy pickings’.

    Generally priority evaluation is run in that order. But then I’m human and sometimes it’s all: I don’t feel like doing that right now; or I don’t even have time to evaluate so everything is assumed to have the same priority and gets done until it’s done or it’s interrupted with the next panic. Which is the interrupt stack in it’s purest form. Some tasks are obviously low priority, like planning and estimate requests. Work comes before arguments, negotiations on time.

    One thing I can be bad at, even when I manage the Priorities and stack correctly, is time limitation. i.e. composing an external blog that cannot be charged to a time code should be limited to an hour or work time, but sometimes I get engrossed and spend a whole morning, then skip lunch to catch up with chargeable work.

    John Stevenson

    Hi Daragh

    Thank you for requesting my input for this topic.

    One of the best tools I use is a personal kanban board (using trello – https://trello.com/)

    This allows me to focus on both work and personal tasks and when I apply limits to work in progress it focuses my attention on getting stuff completed rather than have a multiple of tasks that just stay there. It allows me to see when items are blocked or require further information.

    There is a great book about personal kanban that I have found very useful: – https://leanpub.com/PkFlowNutshell

    The other side of this is that are a few people who are too busy to invest in there own education and self learning and provide excuses to not listen to these webinairs. Some of these excuses may be valid but the way the world is changing we need to look at the value of improving ourselves and managing our time more effectively. For example I currently work with teams in the USA (-5 hours). so my working day typically starts at 12 noon and continues until late evening. During the morning I spend some time on reading blogs (I use a RSS feed which gives me a quick summary), catching up on twitter and spending some time doing research for my book. This takes up about an hour of my day so in a week I set aside 5 hours for self improvement and learning. The rest of the time is spent with family and friends and making the most of this personal time.which is vitally important.

    My suggestion to people in a time management crisis is to look at what is really important, not so important and not important at all and set up your backlog in that way. Add to this a 30 min YOU time per day for learning and look to expand this as you find more that interests you. This time is not a rigid fixed box, if you are learning something or doing something and it has a lot of value then it may be good to continue doing it!

    Is any of this useful Daragh?



    Thanks John,

    That is some great feedback and those resources will be very useful to our members. 🙂

    Amy Brown

    I have had to learn to evade improper delegation – folks who are not my boss who try to delegate undesirable, non-testing tasks to me. “I don’t have capacity for that right now.” I also take every opportunity to cross-train whenever I’ve become an information silo in an area for which I no longer have primary testing responsibility. I get approval from my boss where necessary to back me up.

    The book “Nice Girls Don’t Get The Corner Office” is immensely helpful on these matters. What seems at first like “helping” can actually be “enabling”. Your testing effort can suffer as a result of too many inappropriate distractions.

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