The “off-season” isn’t something you normally hear about in software development and testing. Beach towns, professional sports, and academia all have natural breaks built into their schedules. But testers and developers work all year-round.

At the macro level, there is no “off-season” for our industry.

But as individual testers, we all have downtime, whether we’re talking about personal days, vacations, or gaps in between major projects.

So what should one do with that time off, when we’re in the office but there’s little work to do?

That’s a great question.

And our official answer is that you should continue with your own professional development – i.e. more training, studying, and reading. As huge supporters of continued learning, we’re sticking with this answer if anyone asks.

But this suggestion isn’t very realistic. After all:

  • Pro football players don’t do constant drills and exercises when the season ends.
  • College professors don’t grade papers during the summer (if they don’t have to).

And if you have a hard earned break (as a software tester), or simply a less tensed day at work, no one seriously expects you to spend every waking minute studying methodologies or reading QA books (like the ones from this awesome list we created).

So what should you really do with your time off?

A Software Tester’s Guide to the Off-Season

Again, our official recommendation is that you hit the books and keep improving your testing skills.

But unofficially, we feel it’s better to relax, recharge, and regroup.

Below are just some of the strategies we’ve adopted in the past.

1. Take a Vacation (or Staycation)
If you have the time and money, traveling abroad is a fantastic way to recharge your batteries. But you don’t need to get on a plane to reap the benefits of away time. You can take a “staycation” that involves fun activities in your own town. The important thing is that you spend time away from the lab and enjoy yourself.

Equally important, keep your distance from fellow testers and developers. Office gossip has a way of pulling you back into the fray.

2. Take up Interesting Hobbies
Another great strategy is to start new hobbies and activities that use different parts of your brain. This approach is similar to the above in that you’re taking a “mini-vacation” from the mental processes and neural pathways that typically dominate your day.

If you still need to clock in at your job, consider volunteering in the mailroom for a few days. Your mind can rest a bit. And you’ll likely make new friends. Or consider learning another language (by “language” we mean Chinese or Greek – not Python or C+).

Better still, take up an extreme sport or dangerous activity. Doing so will help chip away at the stereotype that testers are a boring and nerdy bunch. If more of us robbed banks, solved murder mysteries, or climbed Everest, we’d soon become the envy of the IT world.

Not a big fan of adrenaline-fueled rampages or mountain climbing? Then check out the final suggestion below.

3. Netflix and Chill (with a Purpose)
For doctors, there’s Grey’s Anatomy, Scrubs, and ER. Lawyers have the Practice, Suits, and Matlock. And if you’re a cop, you can choose between Law & Order, CSI, and Miami Vice.

Even drug dealers have TV shows for and about them – like Breaking Bad, the Wire, and Narcos.

And it’s been this way for years.

But now there’s finally some solid programming about “programming.” And as software testers, we have access to a broad range of quality content available for streaming or download, including:

  • Mr. Robot
  • Silicon Valley
  • Person of Interest
  • Numb3rs
  • Scorpion
  • CSI Cyber
  • The IT Crowd
  • Halt and Catch Fire

By tuning into some of these shows, you get the best of all worlds:

  • They’re highly entertaining, with unpredictable plot twists, plenty of sex and violence, and healthy doses of humor along the way.
  • They’re topically relevant to what you do, but someone else is in the driver’s seat. This allows you to stay plugged in without having to worry about solving problems or overcoming obstacles.
  • They’re relatable, with many of the same demanding clients, overbearing bosses, and crazy co-workers you probably encounter in your own job.

What Do You Do with Your Time off?

Whether you travel to Sardinia, volunteer in the mailroom, or binge-watch Mr. Robot, the benefit is the same. You gain a bit of distance from your normal routine. And you’ll be that much more refreshed when it’s time to jump back into the game.

What do you think of our list?

And even more important – what do you do when there’s nothing, or at least little, to do?

Feel free to share in the comments below.

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