• This blog began many, many years ago as a blog called WatirMelon when I was involved in the Watir open source project.
  • It’s now known as Quality Thoughts and is written and maintained by me: Alister Scott.
  • I work as a software tester, here in Brisbane in Australia.
  • As you would expect, the thoughts here are of my own and not my employer.  Please don’t wrongly attribute them.
  • You can contact me via alister.scott@gmail.com
  • You can also find me on LinkedIn.

How do you manage to stay on top of things?

Firstly, I make sure I know what’s important to begin with (via my values), as there’s no point being on top of things that don’t matter.

Secondly I’ve developed some little habits that make my day-to-day life a bit easier. I picked up a few of these from an interview with the productivity guru David Allen.

  1. I identified all my ‘inboxes’ into my life – anything that creates things I need to do. And I’ve tried to minimise how many of these I have.
  2. When something arrives for me to do I determine how long it’ll take. If it’s just a few minutes (like pay an electricity bill) I’ll just do it straight away. If someone else can do it I’ll pass it along. If I don’t want or need to do it I’ll archive it. If I need to spend some time on it I’ll schedule it in my calendar.
  3. I don’t try to aim for a completely empty inbox at all times, however, I do try to keep as much noise and distractions as possible out of my inboxes so I only have things that are time dependent or need my attention in there – like tickets for an upcoming concert.
  4. I keep lists of things I need to remember and once a day I go through them and sort and tidy them up. I have a separate list for work and home. If I remember something I need to do at work when I’m at home I email my work account with that thing so the next morning at work I remember it and add it to my (paper) to-do list. Same if I’m driving in the car and I remember something I need to do I send myself a text message via voice so I’ll remember later on.

The reason I persist with doing these habits is to try to reduce the number of things in my head, so I can be less distracted and more present when I’m around my family and out of the office. I’ve found the best way to get on top of things is to get them out of my head.

What skill are you interested in learning next?

I’m interested in learning the skill of being concise. See answer 1.

What do you love about your current role?

I love my broad responsibilities and working as part of a close team. I like that I can do whatever it takes to get the job done rather than what my position description says. I love that I can quickly see the work we do in the hands of our customers.

What would you put on a billboard?

The most memorable billboard I’ve seen was in Philadelphia – I took a picture of it:

I’m not sure whether it was for something specific or whether the company just put clouds on it in-between advertisements but it did make me wonder if any birds had flown into it 🙃

I’d steal that idea and print GET FREE on it:

Get Free has a couple of different meanings to me. Firstly it’s one of my favourite songs (by Major Lazer) and secondly it reminds me that money doesn’t matter that much when it comes at the expense of freedom. We often focus on getting rich when we should instead focus on getting free. As the narrator in Fight Club says: “the things you own end up owning you.”

It would be good to remind people about getting free. My kids tell me the best prize they can get at school isn’t a material thing; it’s free time. As a modern society I think we can easily suffer from excessive busyness syndrome and I think we need to remind ourselves of the importance of free time: wandering, exploring, reading interesting books, having long meals, and sitting around a fire. Hence my billboard message to get free.

How do you go about leaving your work brain at work?

Most lunchtimes I try to take a break and take photos. I spend my journey home on the bus editing those photos and by the time I get home I feel like I’m in home mode and I can be most present with my family.

What is an unusual habit or absurd thing you love?

I have a habit of using the upside down emoji face when I have no idea what it actually means 🙃

I love roadside produce stalls. I often spend weekends driving in the country and have a bag of coins and a Google Map which contains places where you can pull over and buy things direct from the farm. I know good places to get bananas, pineapples, pumpkins, firewood, green veg, eggs, honey, passionfruit and more.

What have you changed your mind about?

Indoor plants. I used to think plants only belonged outside. It turns out some plants grow really well indoors – you just need to know which ones.

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused what do you do?

Whenever I change jobs or homes I find a nearby “chill out zone” where I can go when I feel overwhelmed and get myself back into a good place.

When I’m unfocused I make a list of things to do and break each one of these down further into lists of the smallest possible tasks, and then I start on one of those small tasks. I’ve found the feeling of finishing something, even the smallest thing, builds motivation to keep going. The way to eat an elephant is by taking one bite at a time.

How do you go about making the world a better place?

I start with my two life values: family, and helping people.

I had a traumatic childhood and have post traumatic stress disorder and I now have children myself so I think the world will be a better place if they have a very different childhood than I did. I do anything and everything to make my children loved and safe.

I also try my hardest to look for opportunities to help others. This doesn’t always come easy to me as I have innate tendencies to run away or push people away due to my upbringing.

I’ve found that by having your values straight it makes tricky decisions about what to do clear and simple.

What question do you wish people would ask you?

What happens when you die?

I think we’ve distanced ourselves too much from death. You can’t truly start living until you realise that death is around the corner.

Our kids often ask me about what happens when you die. I’m not religious but I believe there is something greater than us.

I don’t believe in heaven. I do believe that as long as you’re remembered you’ll live on in spirit when you die.

If you help people and make strong connections people will remember you. The people we love and have lost will live on forever as long as we remember them.

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