Tuesday, May 24, 2022

AgileTD Open Air 2022 - A Unicorn Conference Outdoors

If you know me, you probably know that I'm not an outdoor person at all. I do enjoy nature, yet if it's up to me, you'll find me indoors. Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in an outdoor conference, the first AgileTD Open Air. Amazing idea, be it for pandemic times or any time! Not exactly the perfect match for me, though - yet I really wanted to see these people again and learn together. So I decided to join the event and it surprised me in many beautiful ways and I can only recommend you to seize the opportunity next year if you can.

Monday

The conference itself was only scheduled for 2.5 days, yet I decided to take it slow and arrive early. The first nice surprise: meeting Vera Baum at the train station and making our way to the hotel together. As usual, a few people were already there, so more reunions to celebrate.

After a short break, we all went for the speakers dinner. The organizers had invited us to a fancy golf club restaurant where we enjoyed equally fancy (and tasty) food and lots of amazing conversations. What to talk about at speakers dinner? Everything! It ranged from current work experiences to computer game recommendations, from confidence struggles to personal challenges, from societal pressures to coping mechanism tips and tricks - and so on. Back at the hotel, we continue these conversations at the hotel bar, diving into team dynamics, testability, leadership and our personal journeys that brought us here.

Special kudos to Tom Young, Vincent Wijnen, Anne Colder, Clare Norman, Michael Kutz, Patrick van Enkhuijzen for making this first evening very special! My heart was already full even before the conference began.

Tuesday

This was a day to sleep in and properly rest before the conference started. Also, a chance to practice my talk once more, of course (no matter how many I have given already, this is part of my coping strategy). And then it was time to take the shuttle to the event location - outdoors. It was a beach next to a lovely lake relatively close to Cologne. On the bus, I really enjoyed my conversations with Guna Petrova, Constance Armitage, Bastian Knerr, Quyen Phan and Raluca - this being the first conference for the latter ones which I just love to see.

When arriving, the trail to the lake was already marked with unicorn hoof prints, leading us the way. In case you've never had the opportunity to visit an Agile Testing Days edition, unicorns became the mascot and signature feature, so you can expect to find lots of them throughout.

It was time to see even more community friends again! My dear colleagues João Proença and Vernon Richards, my workshop pair Simon Berner, as well as Alex Schladebeck, Anastasia Chicu, Lena Wiberg, Samuel Nitsche and many more. Also: time to enjoy the opening keynote!
Afterwards: amazing barbecue, such good food. The evening continued in a very relaxed way with even more wonderful deep conversations. From enjoying late night snacks, to sitting at the bonfire, speaking with Jens about how important recognition is for everyone of us, to going back to the hotel and letting the evening come to an end at the bar in great company. You'll see also in the following - the organizers really understand how essential it is to give lots of space for these conversations to emerge, to really confer with people, make connections, getting inspired from each and everyone - not only the speakers.

Wednesday

The first full day started with a (very early) shuttle bringing everyone to the location. Getting myself a cup of coffee, finally meeting Marie Drake in person, and then it was already time to start with the program!
With the official program being over, the bonus activities started. People could choose from going for a swim or run, playing beach volleyball, just relaxing, or - going on a scavenger hunt hosted by Søren Wassard! Well, I couldn't resist the latter. Lucky me, Veerle Verhagen and Sophie Küster took me in - and this team was fabulous! Twenty tasks within two hours, and we completed each and every one (we might have gotten a tiny little bit ambitious - hope it wasn't too bad for everyone else to endure us). Our ambitions also paid off, on the very last minute and thanks to a very nice neighbor team who shared their answer with us, we actually won the "childish" price Søren had for us!
Another lovely barbecue, another long evening full of conversations and stories. Just loved it.

Thursday

The last day came far too soon (and the morning too early - I'm just really not a morning person). This time, no lean coffee for me, as Simon Berner and I made final arrangements for our upcoming workshop. Many thanks to Simon for realizing in time that the location's wifi connection was very poor, it would not even allow us to open our prepared Miro board. Even more thanks to Jan Eumann for kindly creating a powerful hotspot for us that made the whole thing work!
The official program being over, I was super happy to see how many of the first time conference joiners stayed until late to socialize, network, connect, build relationships, learn through informal conversations, enjoy themselves, have a great time with this lovely community. The evening became night and no one wanted to let go - until we had to say our goodbyes. Lucky us, there are more Agile Testing Days events coming up and I'm personally very grateful I can see a bunch of these people again in roughly two weeks at Agile Testing Days USA, or latest in November for the regular Agile Testing Days in Potsdam.

Friday

On my way home, my heart and soul was full to the rim. I love these kinds of communities who do that. It seems this was yet another event that was dearly needed by lots of people due to all kinds of reasons, and I noticed I was one of these people as well. This is one of the places where I can just be me (even outdoors).
All my thanks go out to the organizers of this wonderful event, all the heart and care they poured into it including making people feel safe, all the struggles they went through to make it happen, all the magic that came out of it.

If you'd also like to experience this magic, we already learned that there will be an AgileTD Open Air 2023! Look out for the call for papers coming up. Why not do it like some of the people who joined this time who consider becoming a speaker and submit a proposal?

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

German Testing Day 2022 - Let the Conference Season Begin

Compared to other years, this year is a bit special for me. I've started a new job and hence had to make a decision on how to balance this with conference speaking. In addition, I am still working hard on saying yes only to those things that I really want to do and that I also have the capacity and energy for. Therefore, I chose to keep the first half year mostly free of commitments outside work and then start slowly with "lighter" speaking engagements, meaning sessions I've already given before. I have to say thank you to my past self for this decision - it was very well worth it. This gave me the space needed to fully dive into the new company, new team and new product, and granted me the rest I needed to get this new job on the run.

Fast forward to today - where I just finished my first conference of 2022, German Testing Day! Many thanks to Thomas Rinke for bringing me to yet another edition, I really appreciate it. This year the conference was online which means I don't have any sketchnotes to share - I keep those for on-site events. That being said, let's still share what I experienced and learned.


Day 1

How else could it be for a testing conference? The first day was kicked off and we immediately faced audio issues. Kudos to the organizers for the quick decision to drop the integrated browser solution to join talks and refer everyone smoothly to the Zoom meetings instead. No more friction this way and a nice experience throughout the event from then on.
  • "Wie eine neue Kubernetes Version getestet und released wird" by Max Körbächer. Roughly translated: "How to test and release a new Kubernetes version". This was an insightful talk showing how such a huge (think: gigantic) open source project comes together. Coordinating all the people involved is no easy endeavor and a lot needs to be formalized quite strictly to make it work, like very explicit requirement / code / testing freezes. Automation is a foundational corner stone all the way and still humans are needed to review the changes and their impact. Also, change communication to consumers is key and worth a whole separate team!
  • "Remote Ensemble Testing - From Experiment to Common Practice" by Andrea Jensen. I loved how Andrea managed to 1) tell her story from problem to experiment to continuously evolving, while at the same time 2) explaining the approach of working in an ensemble, and always 3) keeping in mind how contexts can differ, hence 4) encouraging people to run their own experiments and last but not least 5) also providing helpful preparation steps and a cheat sheet to support them on their journey! A wholesome well-rounded skillfully executed talk that's simply inspiring. Great job!
  • Lean coffee hosted by Thomas Rinke. Whenever lean coffee sessions are offered, I'll do my best to catch at least one of them. On this day, I got lucky it was hosted during lunch time (if you know me, I'm anything but a morning person). I got the honor to facilitate one of the tables and we had a nice conversation on topics like test reporting tooling, helpful practices to give feedback and what to do when there's only budget for one conference yet limited space for the desired session. A nice side-effect: two new connections formed through these conversations where I had separate calls with each of them later that day and could exchange more experience.
  • "Tester trifft CI System - lessons learned" by Tobias Geyer. Roughly translated: "Tester meets CI system". What amazing storytelling of how a tester ended up improving the build pipeline in a very impactful way! Just loved the full focus on the story, supported by wonderful big images. Really related to the messages as well. Testing and CI system, how does it go together? Well, through critical questioning, measuring and observing, and rejecting to accept the status quo, Tobias could reduce the build time by a lot, hence feedback became a lot faster on all sides, and therefore also product quality improved. Now, you need to be "technical" to do this, right? No, you don't, we can use the skills we honed as testers already and then build on them and learn as we go - plus get support from others.
  • "'Mobi, bringe mich zu Ausgang Beatrixgasse' Indoornavigation in U-Bahnstationen für blinde Personen." by Helmut Pichler. Roughly translated: "Mobi, get me to exit Beatrixgasse - Indoor navigation at metro stations for blind people". An interesting experience report how a research and development project looks like for an innovative new product - and how we sometimes have to recognize that technology is not yet capable of safely covering all scenarios in real life. I especially liked the insights in the everyday life of a tester on such a project and the workarounds they found to solve their issues.
  • "KEYNOTE: Testing in modern times: a story about quality and value" by Huib Schoots. What can I say, it might be my own confirmation bias speaking, yet I couldn't stop nodding in this great keynote. So much related to the focus on learning with short feedback loops, building learning organizations and changing behavior through doing and new experiences - experimentation for the win! Also, countering the (very unhelpful) learned helplessness I also faced so many times in my career (with others, and also myself). And if you wonder what all this has to do with testing and quality? Well, everything!
That concluded day one for me. There was a nice social activity planned on the evening, yet unfortunately I had to miss out this time. Still, a great first day that made me eager to see what the next day was about to bring.

Day 2

This day was the "workshop day" in my head, a day I wanted to focus on workshops - which included my own session.
  • "Being an Opera Singer Prepared me for a Career in Tech" by Anna McDougall. The day started out with lightening and pecha kucha talks, and among them this one really stood our for me. What an amazing short talk! Great storytelling, loved the similarities and differences between opera and tech. Anna managed to convey important messages in very short time (like: we need to leave our ego behind), and that in a super well structured way with amazing slides. Just awesome.
  • "Ensemble Exploratory Testing" by myself. I gave the same (okay, very similar) session at last year's German Testing Day as well. Last year, people needed to register for the workshop, and although fully booked, it was a real pity that only very few people actually showed up. I still got really nice feedback and made it into the top three sessions which also brought me back this year. Now this time, the conference decided to limit the participants by the first come first serve principle - and the session filled up! We could run five ensembles and practice together from wherever people were. I know that this workshop confronts most people with having to learn A LOT in very short time, it's like being thrown into lots of uncertainty for most - hence safety and consideration is so crucial for this session. Also this time, all five groups had very different starting and ending points - yet all stayed and also seemed to have taken away useful insights. You can imagine how happy I was when I heard that the session once again made it among the top voted sessions! One more important thing to say: huge kudos to Thomas Rinke for hosting this session with me this year, taking care of organizational things upfront, participating in the workshop, and also providing feedback. You made everything easy and smooth for me and things just worked - much appreciated!
  • "D.A.R.E. more, F.E.A.R. less - Journaling for Tech People" by Cosima Laube. This workshop really made me think! We learned not only about journaling techniques or how these can help us reflect and direct our next steps, yet also which direction we want to go into. What are our values, what is it that really matters to us? Why do we postpone or procrastinate certain tedious or scary tasks? How can we learn to respond intentionally to these kinds of stimuli? I am grateful that such important and foundational topics are getting addressed and the respective knowledge is being shared at conferences. Cosima managed to break down the complex theory in a very accessible and also actionable way - we can instantly use the approaches and tools she provided us with. 
  • "KEYNOTE: Deep Democracy – Widerstände im Team verstehen – Alle mitnehmen" by Christiane Leiste. Roughly translated: "Deep democracy - Understand resistance in the team - Take everyone along". What if decisions are being made without us getting heard and included? How does resistance build up over time and express itself, from begin hidden to very openly demonstrated? What's behind this resistance? How can we uncover different and alternative perspectives from the start and actively include them in our decision making so everyone agrees that they can come along? This keynote was both very relatable and also provided a tangible way how to include more people and perspectives so we all can craft and go our journey together.

A conclusion?

Or rather the beginning! I'm really happy this conference provided a great starting point into my conference season this year. I learned new things, I met new people, I practiced my skills, I got inspired. Thank you to everyone making this a great event. Now I'm looking forward to more! The good news: the next conference with AgileTD Open Air is coming soon, only two more weeks to go.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Starting in Software Testing

Over the years, several people reached out to me asking for guidance to get into the testing and quality space. What drew me into this area, how to start this as a career, which resources to look into, how to practice, and so on. Today I answered a similar question once more and hence decided to make a blog post out of it - in case my (admittedly quite generic answer) might help more people.

First, credit where credit is due. This post now exists because of those people who had asked. I don't remember all of them, yet at least thank you to AfeezOdunayo, Chemierra and Abraham.

Also, I'm pretty sure there are more comprehensive or helpful answers out there. Here's the one I currently give, adapted to the context of the question asker.


Hi there! Great to hear you'd like to explore the testing and quality space! I relate to the overwhelming amount of (at times contradicting) information out there, it can be difficult to figure out on your own where to even start.

It most probably is not doable to get into software testing the same way I did, as I rather fell into testing by luck and opportunity instead of intentionally planning it as my career. In case you're interested to read about my story, I wrote about it here: How I Fell into Testing. I assume things are quite different these days. What I don't experience differently is that I'm still learning every day and I just love that. I feel in this space I can contribute to building a great product for people, and build that together with great people - as product development is a real team sport. Might be my personal bubble, yet I do feel we can have impact together and help move things to a better place.

Let me be clear that I can only share from my personal experience here and I'm aware I'm speaking from a very privileged position; so please know that any advice I can give you, anything what helped me in my context, might not fit to your situation at all. Feel free to see for yourself though, and I'd be glad if something turns out as valuable.

Coming to your question how to start in software testing. Let me give you a quite common tester answer: it depends! ;-) What's your context? What are you interested in? What do you enjoy? What's a current challenge you'd like to tackle? There's a lot more questions that would help provide you more targeted recommendations. Let me know if you have more specifics for me. For now I'll just go with generic recommendations, hoping they might help you already.

Resources: There's lots of great content out there. In general I can recommend having a look at the following to get started.

Practicing: Getting hands-on experience and trying things out is invaluable, and deliberate practice can make a real difference.

  • You might want to help out open source projects and practice there - probably the most real practice you can find. (Side note: I am sharing this as advice I heard from others, it's not part of my own journey so I cannot speak from experience here.)
  • There are lots of projects meant for practicing. A great list is this: Resources for Software Testers (You need to sign in to view it yet it should be visible with a free account.)
  • Consider joining forces and pairing up with people, or learning in a group. This sped up my learning so much I can't even emphasize this enough. For resources on working well with other people, see my page on collaboration.

In case you'd like to know anything in specifics, just let me know and I hope I can help or connect you with people who can.

Hope this helps! All the best for your journey.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Asking for Help

How is it that asking for help can be both so easy and the hardest thing to do? In my case, if I'm feeling calm and relaxed, I can ask about anybody to help me out. If they agree and do help, awesome! If they don't, well, it's a pity yet I'm calm, so it's not the worst thing in the world either. After all, things are under control anyway.

That situation changes completely when I'm feeling overwhelmed, fires are burning everywhere and I feel the weight on my shoulders (it might not actually be on my shoulders, yet perception matters). In this situation I happen to switch to one of two kinds of modes. Usually, it's my extreme "get things done on my own" mode, which let's me see only one way: pushing through until everything's done! And as I know how to do it, I just do it right away on my own to get things out of the way as quickly as I can. After all, I want to get back to a sustainable pace and things being under control as soon as possible. In this situation I don't feel I have time to enable others to do the same and help me out, I just keep going. On the other hand, I might be going on extreme mode for a while - then everything is getting slower and slower, while I still try to push through. I have less and less energy, so dealing with people is also not high on my list in this situation either. Don't get me wrong, I love people! Yet I'm very introvert and people interactions mostly drain me, unless we also do something together that gives me energy again (like getting valuable things done effectively - this is a real booster for me; hence effective pairing or ensembling does not drain me as much and also gives me back a lot).

Either mode - you don't want to get me there. It might help on the short run, and yes things are getting done - yet I'll do no good to anyone on the long run when I'm in this mode! It's been a while since I realized this and it was a tough pill to swallow. Wait, it's not me saving the world? No, and it never should be, and no, I'm not capable of that either, and yes, it's arrogant to think for a moment I could. And after all, I'm not alone, this is a team sport. Plus, I'm not doing my best work in this mode anyway.  I do my best work when I'm calm. Constraints can help, yes, yet I shouldn't get anxious or overwhelmed or drowning in too many feelings - this is usually throwing me off balance.

Getting back to asking for help: when I didn't catch a situation early enough to stay calm and enable others, and it got too far - then it's getting very difficult for me to ask for help. Especially, what help to ask for anyway? There usually are lots of people trying to help or who offer their support, yet what if they are not in the situation yet that they can actually provide help? Then I'd have to enable them first. Yet do I have the energy? Also, what if other people who would be closest to be able to help do not even see that I'm drowning?

What helped me in these situations are the following things. I'm sharing them here mainly as a reminder to myself. Feel free to go ahead, try them and see if they also help you as well.

  1. Do the right thing and ask for help. No, you're not alone, and there is a team to help out. No one should be left alone anyway, and if that's really the case in your team, then there are bigger issues to solve.
  2. If you can't directly ask for help for any reason, confide in trusted people and have them act as sounding board. They probably will tell you that you're not alone and yes, you really should ask for help! Some might ask you what you are afraid could go wrong if you ask for help. Think about this carefully.
  3. Okay, tomorrow you'll ask for help! Yet it's so easy to chicken out when tomorrow actually comes. What can help is to have someone to keep you accountable on what you committed to do, which is asking for help. In my case it really helps me to make this public (I learned that during my personal challenges). Might be scary, yet it's less scary than actually asking for help. Oh, and then everyone knows, so I'd better really do it tomorrow! Tricking my brain like this usually works extremely well.
  4. Point out and explain the challenge you perceive and how it impacts the team, how others can help you in concrete ways and why, and what part you will do yourself to get out of this situation. Just lay it out as it is. It's not about finger-pointing or blaming in any way how you ended up here, yet here you are. If it's too much work for one person, make the work visible. If it's lack of knowledge, make it clear. Whatever it is, let's get out of this together.
  5. Last but not least, for any situation where you ended up being the bottleneck and hence better ask for help: the only way to break out of a bottleneck and knowledge silo situation like this is indeed to stop and enable others. Yes, it will cost energy - and it's very well spent (I learned this the hard way last year). So do just that, enable others. Don't go on your own anymore. Pair and ensemble, document. Have others take over, trust them - accept different approaches and outcomes, they need to learn their way as well (and no, your way is not always right). It does not have to reach your quality bar either, by the way. You can still debrief and catch the most obvious issues - yet oftentimes, good enough is just that, good enough. Oh yes, and if it's not clear yet: Don't become a bottleneck in the first place. Yet if you really have to (sometimes there's just no other feasible way), don't continue this way and instead destruct it again as quickly as possible. It's about the resilience of the whole team. And testing should never be the bottleneck anyway, yet that deserves a whole other blog post.
Now that you (I do speak to myself here) know what to do, do it. What's the worst thing that can happen after all? Also, only if you do ask indeed, you'll know what actually happened (not what you imagined would happen).

Let me tell you what happened for me when I got into this situation again last week. In my mind, there were several crucial tasks to do that all ended up being on my desk, among them also lots of testing activities. Nothing that I could let fall down, I already cut what I could. In addition, everything needed to happen during the same weeks. I was a complete bottleneck and knowledge silo for the team. And I had planned off time from the next month on - and hence one task on my list was to get more people on the team enabled to help out with testing and quality in various aspects.

On Monday, I had conversations about this perceived situation with two peers. I shared I knew what I had to do and that I needed their backing to have the whole team help out. Both gave me the advice to ask for help indeed. They asked me the questions I needed to hear - what was it I was afraid of? Hurting my relationships with my teammates that I already invested in quite a lot? That things got done with less quality? That I needed to let go? I reflected on what they were saying and yes, I needed to fix myself here. So I tweeted about this to hold myself accountable and get me to really ask for help the next day.
Tuesday came, I summoned up my courage and wrote a message in our team channel, making things as explicit as possible (I asked for help quite a few times the last weeks, yet it seems the message didn't get through to them - I learned that sometimes I need to be a lot more explicit than I think I already am.) I chose the text format here as writing helps my thinking, and sharing on the fly in a call is very hard to  do for me. Second, I wanted it persisted so we could go back to this moment in time, have an artifact to refer to. Third, my team currently works mostly in an asynchronous way still, so I hoped this would fit them. In my message, I pointed out that I needed their help, the challenge I perceived (part of it was too much work in progress, hence people starting to block each other and trying to mitigate this by starting more new work before getting the old one done), what needs to be done when, how they can contribute to solve this challenge and what I commit to do to be part of the solution as well. Then I waited while I continued my work.

The good news: I didn't have to wait for long! The team responded amazingly well and I'm considering myself fortunate - and still they couldn't have responded that well if I never gave them the chance to do so in the first place.
  • One teammate instantly agreed to pair test with me on their story, clearly seeing it was too much for me.
  • One teammate took action right away and took over testing for two other stories, I didn't even need to bother further.
  • One teammate shared they're struggling as well with their task, yet I can ask any time and we can do things together.
  • One teammate had a chat with me and shared they got inspired by my message and took action to take over testing where they could.
You can't imagine how relieved I was! Also, it went really well. Yet I know from experience that these kinds of helpful bursts can happen and still, soon enough things go back to the previous normal again. I was curious to see how long it holds this time.
Wednesday came, and I paired again with the same teammate - just as the first session, it was amazing and we discovered lots of valuable information while also sharing knowledge. Now they know a lot more how to test these kinds of changes as well and what to look for.
Thursday came, and more good stuff happened! I asked the previously struggling teammate to pair on a specific story - and we did! I know this didn't come easy to them so I'm even more grateful. Again, really valuable insights in short time on both sides. I also had asked generally in the team who can pair with me on another story - and one teammate quickly volunteered, a person I didn't expect to do so! This was in itself such a nice thing that it made my day.
Friday - another pairing session with yet another person, hence enabling the team further, and it was a success just as well. Again, I'm aware this might collapse again, as it's hard and takes time to change behavior and mindset; there will be setbacks. Yet four really positive days in a row make me very hopeful. I am very happy I did ask in the end, and very grateful for the amazing response of my team. If we continue on this journey together, I do think there's a bright future ahead of us.

Overall, our work to do as a team already became more manageable in short time. I could feel the relief in my bones! I'm already a lot calmer. Which makes it easier to ask for help again. And if asking for help is difficult once more, remember you are not alone.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Consistency

Recently, I've been thinking a lot about consistency, mainly encouraged by two things. First, I've listened to the Dare to Lead podcast episodes in which Brené Brown speaks with James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits. Consistency and intensity played a big role in the conversation.

Second, I've had some beautifully inspiring conversations with my colleague Vernon Richards on how consistency can be key to a lot of things. One showcase example was his amazing series of "Ship 30 by 30" essays that had him write and publish posts each and every day. Check them out if you haven't already, they're truly insightful.

Overall, I can contribute lots of my own achievements to consistency. Not only my achievements, also my well-being - yet the same is true for the opposite as well. Be aware that this is just me speaking from my bubble here, things might look completely different in your context. Yet here's what's going on in my head about consistency.


Make Consistency Your Friend

Looking back, much of my success is rooted in consistently showing up and taking action. I've never been the best at what I do, yet whenever I did useful things consistently it paid off well for me. At work, this mostly shows when taking responsibility and also acting on my commitments. This can both create a perception of reliability, as I'm not only promising but also let action follow, as well as make me very visible - I'm showing myself through my contributions.

Another example would be trying consistently to improve things. It might be a tiny thing, yet if one tiny improvement is made every day, they add up. Make sure to check out GeePaw Hill and his approach of Many More Much Smaller Steps! Also, consistently delivering something good enough is a lot better than never delivering at all (and also never receiving feedback). This was a hard lesson to learn for me, yet allowed me to let go some of my unhelpful perfectionism - and the past years have proven over and over again that this is definitely the better way to go for me.

For my professional growth, consistency helped me a lot as well with my personal experimentation, my contributions to the community in various ways, even with just making time to learn and grow myself. Through consistently honing a skill - who would have thought - you gain lots of practice! Which again makes the next steps a bit easier. Also, I've built related habits for myself many years ago - tiny things I do every day that still help me achieve a lot. Not all of the things I tried worked out and became actual habits, yet once I figured what did work, I could keep them up for many years. And they paid off.

Looking into other areas of my life, consistency helped me a lot there as well. For example, doing a bit in the household every day does wonders for keeping things more under control than doing it sporadically in bursts. Or back in the day when I agreed to become a volleyball coach. I sticked to it over a longer period, and hence draw a lot of lessons for life and personal growth out of it. When consistently exercising, it's not as hard to do it anymore. When I stick to my sleep rhythm consistently, I'm feeling a lot better. Self-care in general! Since my last personal challenges, I made it a point to make time for certain activities that I only do for my own joy and pleasure - every week. Friends noticed I don't make much progress with these activities - yet the thing is, this way I do make progress at all while otherwise I would miss out completely.

As a side note, I do value consistency in general. I notice that when reviewing things, consistency (respectively its non-existence) is one of the aspects that usually sticks out to me, whether it was in focus of the review or not. When products are mostly consistent, I perceive them as more well-rounded than if they would not be. If texts use and spell terms consistently, they flow better and I don't stumble when reading.

On the other hand, whenever I let go of consistency that helped me (e.g. by dropping activities or postponing tasks), things quickly get overwhelming and I feel I'm losing my grasp. I observe this for example with all my private messages and notifications - if this pile grows too big, I feel its crushing weight. The more it grows, the less I want to face it and hence keep it growing. If instead I make sure to respond to some each day, it stays manageable. Also, when letting go of consistency, it gets so much harder to start again - like exercising, or just writing this blog post. I haven't been as consistent with blogging the last years as I had been before. Sustainable pace can really do wonders. That being said, I don't think we should keep up doing things just because we've always did them. We need to think about purpose, what's helpful and what not.

One of the worst things for me personally happened when I stopped showing up as I used to. I faced this with volleyball the hard way. I've put a lot into this sport for so many years and also had quite some personal achievements there. Yet as soon as I stopped showing up consistently and putting in that effort, I've taken myself out of the game - especially mentally. The more I put myself to the rim, the more I was put there as well by everyone else. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy - one that really hurt, more than I can say. Especially realizing I had a big part in that myself. And it was and still is really hard to pull myself out of there and show up again - consistently.


Be Aware of Impact

So, consistency is great, right? Well, as with everything, this depends a lot on what impact my actions have. If I do something consistently that's harming others or myself, I'd argue consistency works against people. A system, which is designed to maintain itself, might be consistent yet not necessarily be good at all. If I consistently overwork myself, my health will deteriorate. Yet also if I consistently grab a task at work, I'm contributing to creating a silo - this task might not be picked up by anyone else anymore, they might not be able to build up the required knowledge and skill to do it, and I'm stuck with it. Despite being consistent, the impact of our actions might not be desirable.

In my experience, the more consistent our behaviors or habits, the less energy it costs to keep them up. Independent from the impact they might have. Therefore, let's have a look at what we do consistently, which impact this has on us and everyone else, and if this fits to our values and what we want to achieve.

What about changing our behaviors to have different impact then? Isn't consistency contradicting change? While it might sound like it, they can instead even play into each other's hands. Just think of all the continuous improvement approaches and how to make consistent change.

The bottom line for me is that consistency is just an aspect that can work either way. So, let's make good use of consistency and have it work in our favor.


Look for Opportunities

Am I going back to consistently writing blog posts? Well, I don't know yet. I tried last year and it didn't work out then. If anything, we'll find out together. Fortunately, there are many other ways I can make consistency work for myself, every day.

Yet what about you? Think about opportunities where consistency would help you in your life. How might it look like if you started doing things consistently? And what's stopping you from trying it out?