Time to QA: Thoughts on Time Management from a Quality Perspective

April 12, 2024

Judy Mosley avatar
Judy Mosley
Judy Mosley, a Quality Assurance Engineer with 8 years of experience, specializes in both manual and automated testing. Her expertise lies in testing SaaS platforms and collaborating with remote, cross-functional teams. A strong advocate for user experience, she ensures the end user's optimal experience.

Judy enjoys podcasts, food, and coffee.
Her insights on Quality can be found at Failure is Feedback.

“How did it get so late so soon?” ― Dr. Seuss

I love saying yes.

I have a friend I have to be careful with because I trust her implicitly. So, when she asks me to an event, I say yes immediately. I have shown up to events not even knowing why I’m there! She’s just fabulous to be with.

Saying yes can be fun when it’s the right people for the right reasons. But, that tendency can also trip me up. I can’t say yes to every opportunity that comes my way. This applies both to my personal life and my professional work.

As a QA, I’ve experienced times when everyone seems to be coming to me for various reasons. It could be a question, an upcoming project, or needed help to troubleshoot a reported bug. Some days can feel like a whirlwind. Learning how to manage time as a QA is crucial, not only when it comes to work ethic, but to prevent burnout and create a higher sense of well-being.

We are overloaded…Why?

I know the “why’s” for me. Over a week ago, I was approached to write this post for QAjobs.co, and I said yes. I’m excited about a job board for QA’s, and I am happy to contribute. What I didn’t consider was my time. I didn’t look at my calendar for the week. I said, “Yes, I can do this AND get it done by the end of the week.”

What I experienced was False Confidence: The idea that I could take on another task without consulting my calendar and without checking to see what my week would look like. It’ll be fine, I thought. I can just fit it in. And, I could not. I took on too much and had to tell the team at QAjobs that I would need another week to complete the post.

Additionally, I tend to overload myself because…

I don’t like to disappoint


it’s hard being honest about what I can’t do.

I like swooping in, working on something meaningful, being helpful, and coming in clutch. It’s easy to bring the energy and

do all the things

but I can’t. I am one person. I have limitations and boundaries and when I go beyond myself and my limits, I disappoint my teammates and myself.

How should we start?

First, let’s name what we have to work with. There are some key discoveries I’ve made along the way that help me plan my day. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

You only have so many spoons in a day. While the spoon theory was created by Christine Miserandino who described what it’s like to have lupus, I think this is an excellent framework to work from. You have a limited amount of time, energy, and resources you can give to any given task. How much time, energy, and resources depends on the day and the type of person you are. Notice how well and when you can give yourself over to certain tasks. Notice what drains you. Some tasks will energize you! Others will melt your brain like butter. Consider those factors when you consider saying yes to meetings, projects, deadlines, and anything else coming your way.

You only have about 4 hours of focused work in you. Studies have shown that people in tech are capable of only about four hours of deep work. Beyond that, your brain is hard-pressed to focus on complicated tasks. So, if you’re feeling drained at the end of the day after working for significant hours at a time, you aren’t broken. You are very normal.

With this in mind, now we can address the ever-present question:

How should we manage our time?

🛡️First, be fierce about guarding it. Do you really need to be in all the meetings? Do you have to be in every slack channel and know everything that’s going on? No, you don’t. We are key players in our organization AND we also need to remember that we aren’t important to every project and every person. Delegate if you can. Remove yourself from meetings when possible. Create space for the work you need to do.

🗓️ Be honest about your priorities. Do you know what your priorities are? Any time that requests start heading my way, I go to my manager and do a check-in of mypriorities. I show them the current list and ask for their feedback on what should be the top priority. If you are the manager, find a comrade you can get feedback from. Let them mirror back to you what makes sense. You can’t do everything. Pick the most important tasks and let the rest go for another day.

🙅🏻‍♀️ Be willing to disappoint first, then delight. This rule saves me every time. When I say no to a request first, work on my current list of priorities, and then find time to accomplish what I said no to, it creates trust in my team. I’m willing to disappoint first, but there is always a possibility that I can come back later with what was hoped for. And, that is always a good feeling.

Sweet! We now know ourselves, we’re guarding our time, and here’s the next question…

How should we use our time?

This, in my opinion, is the fun part. And, it will take some experimentation to find what works for you. There are a few techniques that help me focus:

Time Blocking: Time Blocking is the time management tool that you can use when organizing your day. Let’s say you log in and look at your calendar. We already know that you only have 4 hours worth of deep work available. Plugging those in at the start of the day (if you can - I know some days are meeting heavy) will help you better organize your day. Knowing your chronotype can help here as well. Some hours of the day are more productive for you than others so plan your day during the hours when you are most alert and capable of deep work.

Pomodoro Technique: I am fan of the pomodoro method. This helps specifically because I have a touch of scoliosis. Sitting for long periods is not good for me. I work for 45 minutes, then take a break for 10-15. It helps clear my head and move my body. Two things I need for good work to happen.

Set your status: I love Slack. It’s a great tool for communication, and it’s an easy way to let my teammates know when I am focused. At a previous organization, we were given the go-ahead to add the 🧠 brain emoji in our status when we were focusing. This communicated when we were hard at work and that we may not answer right away. Creating a culture that makes deep work possible should be everyone’s goal.

Time is so important. It matters how we use it, what we say no to, and what we say yes to. Our goal, at the end of every day, should be to feel that we used our time as meaningfully as we could. Because time is one of the few things you can never get back.

What are some time techniques that have helped you?

Written with 🏛️Discovery of Atlantis Ⅱ : The Ruins I Immersive Experience playing in the background