Sometimes it’s difficult to focus
Struggling with concentration is something I think almost everyone who has worked at an energetic startup is probably familiar. This environment is especially problematic in roles like software QA where patience and meticulous attention to detail is often what makes us so valuable to the team. I know I have problems not getting swept away with the urgency around me. Logically I understand that responding this way is often going to be associated with disruptive outcomes, but still, it’s difficult to slow down. So how do we improve our response and the quality of our work?
Calming my mind
One of my most successful responses to environmental anxieties has been to incorporate some elements of meditation and mindfulness exercises into my work. Typically I employ these strategies for testing, but I believe they are beneficial in many related disciplines. Today we’re going to focus on slowing ourselves down enough so that we can take in more stimuli.
Deal with Anxiety First
Before starting, take a moment to calm down. Lower your gaze away from the screen, take some deep slow breaths (as many as you need), and try to clear your mind. If you’re still feeling anxiety, try some alternatives that work better for you like taking a short walk, getting a drink or snack, or thinking about something that brings you happiness.
Between each action that you take, slow yourself down intentionally. I like to use a breathing exercise to allow adequate time for the app to load and other things to happen to it. Take a few deep breaths (I’ll usually do at least five for websites) but keep your eyes on the screen this time. This time is the pace you choose to set between actions. You may want to adjust the pace based on how much information you’re processing, how quickly your app responds to actions or other factors.
Much like Body Scanning in meditation, the goal here is to acknowledge what the subject is telling us. In this case, we’re focused on the application instead of parts of our body. Let go of the need to get stuff done quickly. Testing isn’t a race. Instead, slowly take in the application as each step loads. Don’t focus too narrowly on the scope of the change when you start, try to take in what’s happening in the entire page and gradually narrow your focus to the scope of the change.
Acknowledge Your Responses
As you work, try to be aware of how the application makes you feel. Does it work how you expected? Is it easy or difficult to understand? Is something completely broken? Is the page ugly or a sentence hard to understand? Write these down either as you perform the task or after you’ve completed it. This sort of feedback is great to pass along to your coworkers including the development team, product managers, and UX.
Like many other things in life, the vital part of getting better is to practice. Don’t give up after one try and try changes occasionally to find out what works for you! If you have other strategies for working in similar situations, I would love to hear from you.