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“How do you do all that stuff?” (Markus Gärtner)

On July 6, 2012, in Syndicated, by Association for Software Testing
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I am often approached with the question whether I cloned myself. At least, when taking a look on the amazon pages for my book, this might be the case; yet I more seriously added my amazon accounts as authors for both the German and the American amazon pages.

A few months ago I had an interesting coaching session on whether or not I am burned out (there are questionnaires for this, I would claim these results do not hold for me), I put on too much work, etc. During that session I found myself confronted with the Diathesis-stress model which explains a lot of my thoughts around this topic.

While I write this, I am in Hamburg, Germany. So, imagine a ship. A ship has a keel, an anchor, a loading depth, and how deep the water currently goes. These four factors influence how fast a ship may sail. Let’s take a look on these four factors, and how they relate to the model as an analogy.

Keel

The keel defines how much load you may put on a ship. IF the keel is deeper, then you might put up more load, but you will also need deeper water to sail into. Regarding your own stress level, the keel relates to how much you can put onto your shoulders.

For me this means, that I have worked since I was aged 14 years old. I helped in a local swimming club. I also helped during the seasonal preparations of our local swimming club. Some years later, I was a student at the university, jobbed at a local shop, did the seasonal preparation for the federation club of our local outdoor swimming pool, worked as a swimming trainer two to three times per week, acted as a secretary voluntarily in three local clubs – all at the same time. I did a lot of stuff in the past. Therefore I claim I am able to put some stuff upon me with ease – probably more than others might feel comfortable with.

Loading depth

The loading depth is derived from how much load is currently already put up on a ship. When the ship is empty, it can take on more load. If it is already completely under water, you have to get some load off from the ship. This directly relates to how much work you put on yourself.

As I mentioned before, I think I can take on some load. There are times though where I sense that I am too heavily loaded with stuff that is fun to me, but might turn out to be overburdened. For example, I actively decided to take some shortages on my blog in the past few months while I spent more time finishing my book, and doing BBST classes. In parallel to my usual work this seemed to be lots of work, and I made the conscious decision to step back from blogging too much because my loading depth felt to be too high with it. Otherwise my ship would have been damaged.

Water depth

The water depth determines whether I can put more load on or not besides my actual current load. This means that I might be able to put more load on while sailing through deeper water, and I can take fewer load on myself while sailing through lighter water.

For example, if I find myself in the position to move to a new house, I will be able to put less work on myself on my day job. On the other hand, I can take more care about my family, when I don’t go through a 60 hour workweek. Ideally, I want to have my workweek balanced with my family life, but life is tough – and crosses my plans at times.

Anchor

Finally, there are anchors. These anchors draw myself down. These are stressors which slow myself down. For example, when I find myself in the position to move from one week to the next to a new location, this triggers more stressors inside myself and probably slows me down.

Putting it all together

Putting it all together, my work load, my cruising depth and the current water depth determine how much work I can put on my shoulders. This might mean that I can organize meetings, work on a book, write two articles, and maintain three blogs in parallel. At times though, stressors will slow me down, and I will have a hard time keeping up my current pace. The problem with stressors is usually that these are determined from the outside, and can put you into rough water pretty easily.

Some people I have talked to feel more comfortable with a lot of room for external stressors, others feel more comfortable when they have full control about their situation. I think I learn a lot by consciously increasing some factors at times, trying to put on more work, and watching out for too many stressors on the horizon. At that time say politely no to new things that turn up, although they seem to be a breakthrough chance at times.

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