Understanding Last Week’s Notes

All testers know the feeling: coming in on a Monday, looking at your notes from last week, and understanding nothing. If not for the handwriting, you’d think they were someone else’s notes.

How do you write notes that you’ll understand on a Monday, without wasting too much time? Here are some tips, in no particular order:

1. Always use a verb. A lot of notes are things like “user error”. Using a verb like “creating” and “logging in” will make Monday morning much better.

2. Indicate whether you just thought to look at something, or whether you already suspect a bug. This will help you remember priorities. I use T for test and B for suspected bug.

3. Highlight the last note of the day, to remind you where you stopped working. If you’re really dedicated – and forgetful – you can number all your notes to help you reconstruct the day.

4. Number sub-notes or use a branching arrow to see the connection between them.

5. Don’t insist on writing line by line or neatly. If the notes on lines three and twenty seven are related, it’s best to write them both on line three, even if it’ll end up a squashed mess.

6. If notes are related, add arrows. Have the arrow start and end at the most relevant words; it was some link between these words that made you think of the second note, so seeing them together might refresh your memory.

7. While you’re at it, write a word along the arrow’s line to remind yourself of the link.

8. Come up with short-hands for words you write a lot, like the names of windows and API fields. Write them, in brackets, before every note.

9. Use different arrow types to indicate different flows. A solid-line arrow can mean you’re moving from window to window, while a dotted-line arrow will mean you stay in place but information is moved (from entry fields to the DB, for example).

10. Scratch out any note you no longer need, cause come Monday you won’t remember which ones you already handled.

The obvious tip – write full sentences – I’ll skip; I preach what I practice.

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