Thursday, May 6, 2010

Did you eat that frog today ?

Recently during a workshop on Exploratory testing Pradeep gave an exercise to the participants to test an application. After around 15 minutes of testing, different participants came up with different types and numbers of defects. The question that got asked next was obvious- Why do different testers find different types, numbers of bugs given the same amount of time ?
Interesting question, isn’t it ? What got demonstrated in 15 minutes is the story of every organization involving testing teams i.e. some testers find important bugs faster than the others. There can be several reasons one can think of for such a phenomenon but i feel at the core it has something to do with the ability of a tester to prioritize and execute the most relevant and important test at a given time. The skill of a tester including the testing skills, technical skills, product knowledge, soft skills etc. all help the testers to build this all important ability.
Generally, in work life this concept is of utmost importance i.e. one's ability to select the most important task at each moment and then executing it to perfection will have the greatest impact on one's ability to deliver on results. And thinking on an even larger frame, this ability is the basis of managing time better.
So, what stops a person from selecting and executing a person from doing the most important task for a moment. Again, a common thought process can lead to many responses but largely it has something to do with inherent habit of human beings to procrastinate or delay the uncomfortable tasks, how-so-ever important they may be to any given context.
Consider some situations-
- A person who is more of an introvert will often delay going to a large gatherings, even though it may be important and required.
- Coming into office, one might often delay doing the tasks involving confrontations.
- While testing some application, general tendency is to delay working of the areas where one has less knowledge.
- If one has to choose between two tasks of more or less equal importance, the general tendency is it choose one that sounds easy.
There can be many such examples in our day-to-day life where we procrastinate. I once read somewhere that Procrastination is a Thief of time. Quite true it is!

I recently completed reading a book called - Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy. To be honest, i picked it up from a book store because i just needed something to read but when i reached the end, i found it to be one of the more profound practical book on the subject of Time Management. So, this blog is dedicated to my learnings from this book.

Does this title of this blog sounds strange ?
It might and if someone thinks about it literally, it might sound disgusting also. This is based on what Mark Twain once said- "If the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long." So "Frog" here is a metaphor for the task you find ugly but it needs to be done.
The idea of managing time in a better way is to create time for yourself in a day so that one can get more done in less time. We often hear proponents of Time management say that we all have 24 hours, yet some get more work done and some get lesser done. This illustration is quite true, without doubt.

Rules in Frog eating:
Now that we know what a frog means, Yes, it is that ugly task that you hate to do i.e. given a choice in normal situations, you will never choose to do it. But at the same time, it will be most critical to your success in a given endeavor.

The first rule in Frog eating states something like-
If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugly one first.

In other words, if you have two important and not-so-pleasant tasks to do, always choose the unpleasant of the two first. I think we as a human beings forms certain preferences as we move ahead in the life and these preferences always act as the filters to our thoughts. E.g. if a person has to eat 2 medicines to treat an ailment, one tastes sour and the other sweet, if a person has a preference for sweet he will tend to stay away from the sour medicine as much as possible. But the fact of the matter is that to treat an ailment, he might be required to eat both in right proportions.
Another situation- a creative person working to test an application, will invariably prefer to do an Exploratory test rather than a time consuming and repetitive task of verifying a single functionality for a long time. Suppose, the same tester is in a situation when the development team needs an urgent information on a bug, which requires him to run a same test 100 times to gather necessary data, what will this person do ? That’s the essence of the first rule of frog eating. Do the difficult task first, it will set the tone for the rest of the day.
The outcome of each day is based on the choices we make. Suppose if a person chooses to do easy tasks in his most productive hours of the day, it will mean that he has left the monstrous tasks towards the time when his mind is wavering, one can imagine what the outcome will be.

The second rule in frog eating is-
If you have to eat a live frog at all, it doesn’t pay to sit and look at it for very long.

Generally the way people show the dislike towards a certain task is by keeping it their list and dont do anything on it. Follow-up on tasks is a very common phenomenon at the work place. And the situation of following-up arises when one delays the task. The irony in this situation is that even after the delay, you tend to do the task because it was required. Knowing this, the better sense would demand - why delay in the first place!
Keeping an unpleasant task till the end of the day or even beyond makes one feel stressed and it is one of the reasons of people suffering from low self esteem, which then affects many other aspects of work and life in general.

So what are your waiting for ? Pick up yourself and do that unpleasent task thats sitting on your mind and blocking you from thinking clearly. There is nothing as exhasuting as an unpleasant, uncompleted task.
Try starting your day by going through this short video and acting upon what is being said.

Will be sharing more learnings in upcoming posts. Do share your thoughts around this ?


Vittal said...

Hi Anuj,

Thanks for sharing your learning.

You mentioned, "the essence of the first rule of frog eating. Do the difficult task first, it will set the tone for the rest of the day."

This can be said true about the routing work we do everyday, but when are about to start a bunch of new work which we haven't attempted earlier, don't you think doing the easy task will be a good start, to build confidence to take up the Bigger monstrous task.

I agree, that you are referring to day to day task and i am talking about approaching a new task altogether.

Couple of years back, i read a article of Robin Sharma, it emphasized the need to conserve time. It thought me wonderful point "Time is always wasted in minutes not in hours nor in days".

My point is, when you have 15mins to test, make every minute of those 15mins count. Make full and effective use of it. Pick what matters most, what adds most value and target it (may be i am agreeing to your theory of eating the ugly frog here).

"The outcome of each day is based on the choices we make. Suppose if a person chooses to do easy tasks in his most productive hours of the day, it will mean that he has left the monstrous tasks towards the time when his mind is wavering, one can imagine what the outcome will be."

Isn't the concept of productive hours for a person more crude.

May be true in true in clerical work, but i don't really think creative work can be tied in productive work hours schedule.

Thought's isn't a switch to be turned ON|OFF.

May be what i referring is a different context and topic here.


QPT said...

Thanks for the sharing.
Can u get 10 / 10 in this Testing game?Try
Easy learning