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"Break Throughs" Sometimes Require "Breaks With" (TESTHEAD)

On December 27, 2011, in Syndicated, by Association for Software Testing
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For the past decade plus, I have had a “beautiful monster” in what is effectively my home office. I say effectively because, in all reality, the Home office is really a place for a book case, a fold down futon/couch, my closet with my clothes and miscellaneous items for said futon (makes for a semi-nice guest bedroom in a pinch), but the dominating feature (and I used that word very literally), is the Computer Hutch/Armoire. It’s a beautiful piece of walnut furniture, with six doors, an internal light, adjustable media shelf, places for CPUs, printer, scanner, external drives, filing drawer, and a retractable desk that can be folded in and closed up behind six panels. It’s beautiful, and it’s huge, as in 24 inches by 48 inches by 72 inches huge, and that’s without the desk pulled out.

This was the first purchase I made for my “home office” in 1999. When we bought our house, I was overjoyed to finally have a room that was going to be my office. An actual room, not setting up in a side closet as in our previous place, not shunted out in the garage when I outgrew the closet and the heat from a SPARC station and a 21″ CRT monitor became unbearable. This was going to be a real honest to goodness dedicated office, a veritable “man cave” of my very own, and to house the tons of bulky computer equipment I had at the time, including the said SPARC pizza box, 21″ CRT monitor, and a secondary PC that was connected to the same monitor and keyboard, the armoire was ideal, along with a big executive chair and everything in its place.

Fast forward 12 years. The SPARC station and original PC CPU are long gone. They have been replaced a couple times. Today, my digital life and work reside on a Macbook Pro and a Toshiba Sattelite PC. The need for a dedicated printer is now in the family room where the entire family can use it. Network connections come via wi-fi. External storage is now more often than not in the cloud, with some DVD backup media for good measure. Future platforms are possibly looking to be tablets (whether iPad or some Android flavor) or smartphone (whether iPhone or Android). The simple fact is, the Armoire, while it looks nice, it’s a relic now. It doesn’t fit the way that I work any longer, but I’ve tried to force myself to  keep using it for years now. I paid a lot of money for it. I wanted to get my money’s worth out of it.

The funny thing is, we often invest a lot of ourselves, our energy, and our emotions in items that are just plain and simple past their effective use life. Don’t get me wrong, this desk will be a gem to someone with the room for it and who would like to have it serve a similar need (it has enough room for a big flat screen TV inside, plus the ability to be a fully functioning office desk if necessary. It’s just that it no longer fits my life and needs any longer, and justification to keep it around just burns up cycles, not to mention my having to do clutter control of a major scale just to keep the area around it tidy.

Today, I made a decision. I called my local Salvation Army store and said I had a great piece of furniture looking for a new home. They’ll be coming by later this week to pick it up and bring it to their showroom. In return, I will have 48 cubic feet of space to do something with. I may set up a card table or something to have a place to sit and type if I need to, or I may just leave the space empty and actually have the ability to walk into the room and sit down and breathe and relax. I may re-purpose the room entirely, who knows? The fact is, I can do my work anywhere now. I don’t really need a dedicated office any longer, and I’m willing to bet that developments in the coming years will make the need for a dedicated space even less relevant (though I will probably need it as a quiet space to do show production for the foreseeable future).

At the end of this year, think about the tools, practices, policies or equipment that you have “invested in” and ask yourself, are these items, practices or policies genuinely useful to me, or do I keep them on life support just because I’m sort of attached to them? If you can say that you really do use them and they really bring value to what you do, then you’d be perfectly fine to leave things be and not do anything. However, if you find, like me, that you are spending a lot of energy producing “churn” for no other reason than to churn, give that process or item a lot of thought and see if you can live without it. If so, find a place to put it and get it out of your reality. If in truth, you can do just fine without it, let it go. Don’t spend another minute letting it clutter up your time or your energies.

Have you wanted to learn a new language or use a new approach to testing, but you are hamstrung by the practices you have to keep up and maintain? If there isn’t a real compelling reason to keep them going, dare to set them aside for awhile. Examine their real utility. You may be surprised that all of the attention you’ve been paying to “essential reports, forms, charts, and processes” might actually be not that essential after all. Dare to do something different, and see how it goes. Consolidate processes where it makes sense, and dare to stop doing some things altogether if you are really just treading water doing them. The end of the year is a classic time to de-junk, de-stress and de-clutter. Take the time to do so, and you may find that your house, your desk, your work group, and quite possibly your sanity function way better by removing the thing that you think you have to keep around, but really don’t. Give it a try, let me know how it works for you :).

 

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