Taking a Break – What taking time off from pretty much everything can do for/to you/me

Wow.  I haven’t been on here since … August? Oh wait! I replied to a comment on September 5.

How fitting of a discovery for my first post since taking a break from… well.. pretty much everything testing related (other than work).

So what led me toward taking a break from things? I’m glad I asked. Let’s see:

  • Took and successfully completed the BBST Foundations 2.0 course hosted by AST – Yay!
  • Narrowly avoided a breakdown three weeks into the course – <>Yay!
  • Found out I was not accepted to speak at Let’s Test 2014 –  !=Yay!

So yeah, that kind of sucked a little. The BBST course almost broke me (I’ll write about that in detail, including some advice for future attendees in a separate post soon). The Let’s Test rejection, even if it was well founded in the end, didn’t feel all that good either. I lost interest in all of this. I felt defeated and disinterested. So I decided to take a break. I most of my momentum on pretty much everything “extra” I was doing professionally, and I really felt like I just needed to get away from everything.

I spent most of that extra time working through some family things going on, getting a shed delivered and setup, winterizing the yard, etc. I went to work. I came home. I hung out with my family. I played some games. That was it.

So where did it get me? Well.. all that time off showed me a few things. It first showed me that taking a break from things was OK. Sure I had waves of “but.. but if I stop blogging/tweeting/reading/collaborating/other ings bad thing X will happen”. In the end though, nothing bad happened. Well, other than Phil gently harassing me about some promised blog posts. Mentally, I needed the break so I took a break.

In the end, I also learned that I really missed all of it. I missed the community. I missed being engaged in something bigger than me. That feeling started to trickle back in two or three weeks ago. Now, I feel like I’m totally here again. I’ve got a ton going on, I’m excited about all of it and I think it shows.

Was it OK for me to take a break? Absolutely. It helped me get over my funk. It helped me recharge. I see it sort of like that thing the Amish do when they send their kids off to the non-Amish world to get on a television show about how much they drink so see if they will return to the farm. I decided I liked … sorry, I can’t keep that analogy going any further, it’s insane. In the end, I came back. YMMV, but if you are feeling overwhelmed, or stretched too thin, take some time off. If you blog constantly, and it’s wearing on you, stop for a while. It’s OK. If you feel yourself being pulled in too many directions, take a breather from the non-critical things.

Everyone needs time to stop and relax and sometimes, just be.

What now? Well, since everything I just finished describing, I started looking at Twitter with a little more regularity. After a few good conversations there, I ended up with a small group of people who wanted me to blog about various things (I think this is the first of four I need to write soon-ish). This then is my rough timeline of things I’ve done since my pause:

  • Hey, Twitter!
  • The CAST Live interviews went up, including mine
  • Elected to the program committee of NOSQAA
  • Accepted to speak at QA or the Highway (2 for 8 is better than 1 for 6!)
    • Did I mention I have to wear a kilt? Thanks Hilary
  • Started working on a bitchin’ proposal for CAST 2014 with a cross-Atlantic co-presenter
  • Finagled a way to attend Let’s Test 2014 as.. well… an attendee
  • Asked to write some stuff for the thing (can you tell I talk to Matt a lot?)
  • Began some secret research.. hopefully I can write about this in the future
  • Discovered Paul didn’t wipe my blog off his server (thank’s Paul)
  • Figured out how to log back in to my blog
  • Started writing this post

I really think I’m back now. I took some time off, my brain got better, and now I’m here again. Hell, I told someone today I should try to take a sabbatical from work to bank some family time next summer so I can attend /another/ conference. Who does that? Seriously?

Editor’s Note: (yeah, it’s just me still) I get this isn’t the best post, but come on, I have to restart somewhere. I’m rusty at this writing thing. Hopefully the BBST, AST grant sponsored NOTiCE meetup, and testers to follow on Twitter posts will be better.

8 thoughts on “Taking a Break – What taking time off from pretty much everything can do for/to you/me”

  1. Thanks for sharing. I think burnout happens more than most people like to admit. I have burned my self out on plenty of things, and some of them I will probably never return to.

    For me, finding my own balance and being happy in that spot is key. Like you said, sometimes it requires checking out for a while to refresh your energy and perspective.

  2. I feel for ya’, seriously :). This is why I tend to declare winter as “down time” in the testing community for me. I don’t do conferences during the winter months because, frankly, I love my snow and my snowboarding, and when I have to go other places for conferences/events, it means I can’t do that thing I love most of all.

    The weirdest part of putting everything down, for me, is picking it back up again. It’s genuinely hard, because other things/habits have started during the break, and hey, we *like* a lot of those things. time and attention spent on a goal/area means it can’t be spent elsewhere, and we have to really make a mental shift to get back into the swing of what we were doing before (wonder why you haven’t heard a podcast from me in nearly a year? Now you know :) ).

  3. Good to be reading a new post from you, hope the break was good for you and look forward to reading your new material and why BBST was such a strain

    I’ve had a break as well, starting to think about getting going again.

    Find a sustainable pace and dont pressure yourself
    Or let me pressure you :)

  4. I can very much relate to your experience. I’ve taken a break since soon after CAST to reenergize myself and had similar feelings after my first peer conference. For me I think it’s a feeling of reaching a plateau and not being clear on what to accomplish next and maybe feel like that next thing, whatever it is, will be rather challenging thus feeling a bit overwhelmed.

    … But that might be different for you.

    … And like I said to Helena: We’re young, we can deserve to take a break every once in a while to ensure our spark lasts…

    You have great things ahead of you Erik! It doesn’t take a genius to see that. Make sure you save the energy so the rest of us gets to see those things!

  5. I tend to work until burnout then I take a break. Over the summer I do very little writing and most of my blogging is about our adventures. Those two precious months called summer in the Northeast needs to last for a long time! I tend to take a long weekend here and there… plus we take a week off in September to go hiking and get away from it all. I am interested in reading about the BBST course. I am thinking about taking it but am hoping I can make the time commitment. So much to juggle and so many unknowns at work and the unknowns of the BBST commitment is making a touch hesitant. I do believe in the work hard, live hard philosophy. :) Glad to hear you took a break! Because that re-energize you for what is next.

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