Balance

Someone asked me recently why I don’t participate more in software testing forums. Why I don’t blog more often. Why they don’t find me “around” virtually as often as they used to. Balance was my answer.

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My online life was becoming consuming. And it’s easy to get out of balance especially when you live in a climate like Chicago where its winter for eight months (or at least feels like it.)

But I’ve been pushing in my chair and walking away from my desk, focusing on other parts of my life. I’ve been exercising more. Reading novels. Writing short stories. Spending more time with friends. I decided this would be the winter I would learn to cook and wow, what a difference that has made. I’m gearing up for another furniture restoration project, a hobby of mine.

What does balance have to do with software testing? Plenty. Software testing is largely about being observant. If your eyes aren’t fresh, if you’re not rested, if you haven’t exercised or moved in hours (and perhaps days), then how alert or observant can you be?

I understand the long days in software testing. I’ve burned through many and I feel certain I will again.

James has blogged about using time to learn when business is slow. I admire that. I admire it for a couple of reasons: 1) it’s important to keep learning and 2) it’s true that as a consultant and business owner, there are lulls in business. I’ve seen the cycles myself a few times over now that I’ve been independent for a couple of years. I learn a lot in those quieter business stretches. Sometimes I learn a lot about myself.

I have gained a better sense of what my real interests are. When my energies are waxing and waning. I’ve gotten comfortable with my notable cycles of intense focus (whether reading or writing) and times that I feel like I have attention deficit disorder. I’ve identified activities I really don’t like to do but that I used to blame lack of time as the reason. Imagine removing time as your block to find (and admit) that you just never get to some activities (or magazines) because you just don’t enjoy them that much or perhaps not at all. It’s freeing to admit, I’m just not that interested in X (insert activity here) than using lack of time as a shield.

Sometimes when business is slow, I read books in software testing and explore new tools. Sometimes as in recent time while business has been quiet, I haven’t read anything in software testing – and that break – unexpected and unscheduled has been a good one. I find I’m hungry now to test again. I miss it and I think that’s a great thing. It means I’ve had a real break and when I’m back to working more, I’ll be ready. Rested and ready.

I use colors on the activities on my calendar. Client time, time to write, time to exercise, time to attend to activities related to having my own business, time to update my class materials … I have several ongoing categories in my life. Now a fairly quick glance at my calendar reveals days and weeks that are well balanced versus time or days that are heavily focused in one direction – which is perfectly fine as long as days heavily-loaded in one category don’t stack up to too many days in a row. Using a color-coded calendar has helped me more readily observe balance issues (it’s just another form of data visualization but I’m not going there today.)

So I could fine-tune this blog, fuss over it but it’s time to move on. When you balance your time well, there is actually time for everything you care about.

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