Software Testing And The Art Of Staying In Present
When I first wrote an article on Soft skills that make a tester some years back, little did I capture the importance that the power of concentration plays in our profession. As I grew more in the professional life, I am beginning to get more convinced that most of the inefficiencies while testing or even while dealing with regular work-related stuff stems from the notorious ability of our minds to wander at will. While it‘s quite bold of me to relate lack of concentration as one of the major reasons for quite a lot of inadequacies at the workplace but a little introspection would reveal that lapses in concentration during the day actually keep us away from being at our best.
Consider the following situations-
– A tester working to perform Exploratory testing in a well-defined session often sees himself lost and with his mind miles away from the task at hand. Does a 1-hour session mean that a tester gets to spend an entire one hour on testing? Probably No even if a tester completely isolates himself/herself from the distractions around his work.
– How many times does it happen that while performing one task you are either thinking of what happened before the current task or what is going to happen after the current one?
– While working on something important, you tend to get distracted with an email arrival and tend to spend time there even though it may be as trivial as a joke from a friend.
– If you actually got to use a tool called Session Tester meant for assisting testers in performing Session-based testing, it has an interesting feature called “Prime Me”. On clicking this button, a tester is given some useful suggestions asking him/her to focus on the task at hand. Some suggestions such as “Try touring in different ways”, “Try something radical”, “What do you see that you didn‘t see before?”, “What would Grandma do?” etc. This feature is actually quite handy to bring the tester’s mind back to where it should be. Why do you think such a feature would be needed?
I feel that looking back at your day or even last one hour, you would quite appreciate the fact that our mind tends to be one of the most dynamic entities. At the same time, there is also a growing realization that at the foundation level of every success, there is an individual’s power to focus on the goal till it‘s completed successfully. In this context, the greater challenge is how can one tame or control one’s mind to get the best out of it at will.
What is concentration?
The Oxford dictionary definition of the word “concentration” is “the act or power of focusing one‘s attention”. One of the best definitions of the word “concentration” comes from Geet Sethi (7 time World Billiards Championship holder) when he says,
“Concentration is simply remaining in the present. The longer you can remain in the present, the greater will be your span of concentration.”
This definition quite beautifully sums up what concentration is all about.
Is it easy to concentrate and focus on something?
I think Geet Sethi’s definition of concentration makes it seem quite simple. In reality, is it really simple? I bet you would agree with me in answering this question as “No”. Sachin Tendulkar, arguably the greatest Batsman in the sport of Cricket, in one of the interviews with Wisden stated,
“The toughest thing about batting is to clear your mind. The mind always wants to be in the past or in the future, it rarely wants to be in the present. My best batting comes when my mind is in the present but it doesn’t happen naturally, you have to take yourself there. I am not able to get into that zone as often as I would like but, when you are there, you don’t see anything except bat and the ball.”
Don‘t you think, Sachin‘s above statement proves that it is so human to have a mind cluttered with thoughts that either take you months ahead of the current time or maybe years behind? This is a constant battle that every person faces irrespective of his/her stature and greatness is actually bestowed upon the people who are more consistently able to tame their minds to move in the direction they have set for their lives.
That is what Sachin has referred to as being in “Zone”.
As another cricketer- Aakash Chopra put it in his articles on the same topic- “The mind has the peculiar ability to wander off at the first available moment, and it doesn’t need any permission.”
The Power of focus in Software Testing:
For those who have experienced the job of Software testing, would agree with me when I say that it‘s an intense job. To do the testing perfectly and to get the desired results requires a tester to have more than just the Technical skills required to do the job. Consider a scenario in which 2 testers with similar educational background join an organization and undergo similar training but while at work one tester gives absolutely wonderful results while the other remains average. There can be multiple factors leading to this situation but one major factor leading to greater performance of an individual has been the Power of focus or concentration that one exhibits while working on a task. People who are passionate about Software testing would find their attention span on the task at hand i.e. testing the software more than the average testers.
Correlating that with Sachin’s statement in my previous point – when a tester is in the zone he/she always sees only the Software to be tested and works with it with full attention, eliminating all other distractions.
The more a skilled tester reaches such a zone, the better he/she will get at the craft of Software testing.
I would call this a “Zone of Accomplishment”.
Is it possible for a tester to get in “Zone of Accomplishment” every time tester tests?
I won‘t be forthcoming here and say that the answer to this is “Yes” just because we are humans and cannot always be perfect but one thing is true for a fact that the great testers get into this zone more often than others. In my experience, I have realized that often we try and fight with the thoughts in our mind to focus on the task at hand. A mind in its current state may have zillion thoughts such as unfinished work, thoughts about the next day, thoughts about your personal life, thoughts about traffic, weather, etc.
One of my realizations has been that instead of fighting with the mind to get it to the desired state- as a first step acknowledge that it’s natural for the mind to wander and accept the status quo. Don‘t really be hard on yourself, let the mind work with a multitude of thoughts while you carve for maximum attention on the task you want to focus on.
Another idea I have found useful is to defocus and allow your mind to wander and then focus back again. The more we allow the mind to work naturally, the more attention spans we would be able to get back in return.
I would really like to hear from you on your experiences towards staying in present and getting in to “Zone of Accomplishment” while testing.
Do share your thoughts.
Credits and inspiration:
Anuj currently works at Walmart Global Tech India and leads Strategic Technology Programs. Prior to this has handled leadership roles in Product Management, Engineering, and Technical Operations. An innovator at heart, he has 16 patent filings and supports a few start-ups in advisory roles. Follow him on Twitter @anujmagazine.