You’re busy and you’d like to squeeze some extra time out of the day without spending more time in the office? You should look for ways to make small repetitive tasks more efficient. I’m not talking about test automation (although that’s certainly something you should be open to and looking for) but the kinds of things you do all day every day, probably without even thinking about them.
You almost certainly swap between applications under test, test harnesses, email clients, editors, command lines, word processors, spreadsheets, bug trackers, browsers and so on tens or hundreds of times a day. If you’re a mouse jockey you probably spend a few seconds mousing to the task bar, clicking on the next application, mousing back up and clicking in the application to get focus. Did you know that Alt-Tab throws up a quick task switcher?
You probably have to edit and run scripts at the command line. Do you find yourself repeatedly opening an editor, editing a script, closing the editor, typing the command to run the test, opening the editor on a results file, closing the editor, opening the editor on the script, editing the script …? Then you should consider (a) having a couple of shells open at once, one to run in and one to edit in, (b) becoming more familiar with your editor so that you can have multiple buffers open at once and (c) learning enough about shells to know that tab-completion, short cuts and cursor keys can optimise command line interactions.
Any time you find yourself doing the same thing again and again, ask whether you can cut it out: use the keyboard for copying and pasting, install helper applications for missing features (e.g. wikEd for wiki editing) use utilities like grep rather than eyeballing documents, use bookmarks on your web browser for all the sites you usually browse to from your intranet home page …
Time not spent on the process of getting to the next task is time not wasted and, more important, time where you’re not losing context. In another installment of an occasional series on the software development philosophies of celebrities, I’m with Paul Daniels when he says Every Second Counts.