Strategy One: Avoid Reinventing the Wheel
At various times in my testing career, I've needed to test a file upload feature. I made sure to test with different file types: pdf, jpg, png, and so on. Sometimes it was hard to find the file type I was looking for; for instance, it took me a long time to locate a tiff file. After I had tested file uploading a couple of times, I realized that it would be a good idea to save all the files I'd found in a folder called "File Types for Testing". That way, the next time I needed to test file uploads I would have all my files ready to go. Recently I expanded my "File Types for Testing" folder to include some very large files. Now when I need to test file size limits I don't have to waste a second looking for files to use.
Similarly, I have a folder of bookmarked web pages that contains all the tools I use regularly, such as a character count tool and a GUID generator. This way, I don't need to spend valuable time conducting a search for the tool, or asking a co-worker to remind me where the tool is.
Strategy Two: Be Consistent with Naming and Filing
Every now and then someone on my team will ask me about how I tested a feature, or I'll ask the question of myself, because I'll need to do some regression testing. If I don't remember what I named my test plan when I saved it, or what folder I saved it to, I'll waste a lot of time looking for it. For this reason, I name all of my test plans consistently: the name begins with the JIRA ticket number, and then I include a brief description of the feature. For example: "W-246- File resizing".
When I first started naming my test plans consistently, I just named them with the description, but that made them difficult to find because I could never remember what verbiage I used: was it "Resizing files" or "File resizing"? Then I named them with just the JIRA ticket number, but locating them required two steps: first I needed to remember the ticket number by searching through JIRA, and then I needed to look up the test plan. Naming the test plan with both the number and the description gives me two ways to find the plan, which speeds up the process.
I also organize my test plans by feature. For example, all of my test plans associated with messaging go in a Messaging folder. And all of my test plans associated with file uploads go in a File Upload folder.
Strategy Three: Have a Place for Shared Tests
As much as I love avoiding reinventing the wheel myself, I also enjoy helping others avoid it. My team does a lot of API testing, and we use Postman for that purpose. We have a shared workspace where I put all of our saved collections. The collections are organized by API so they are easy to find. Really long collections are organized in sub-folders by endpoint or by topic. This is helpful not just for our testers, but also for our developers; they have mentioned to me that it's much faster for them to reproduce and fix an issue when they can use saved requests instead of setting up their own.
We save all of our regression test plans in Confluence. They are organized by version number for major releases, and by API and date for smaller releases. We use Confluence because it's easy to collaborate on a test plan; we each add our name to the tests we run so we can see who is working on each section and which tests have been completed. Saving the test plans this way makes it easy to go back and see what we tested, and it also makes it easy to duplicate and edit a plan for the next release.
Strategy Four: Leave Yourself Notes
Whenever I get a new piece of information, such as a test user's credentials or a URL for a test environment, I say to myself "Am I likely to need this information again?" If it is likely, I make sure to add it to my notes. I used to use a notebook for notes like this, but now I use Notepad++. Keeping this information in saved files makes it easier to locate, instead of searching back through pages of a notebook. I keep all my Notepad++ files in the same folder, and I name them things that will be recognizable, such as "Test Users" or "Email Addresses for Testing".
As in any company with more than one employee, we share files, and sometimes other people don't file things in the places where I would expect them. After getting really frustrated trying to find the same information over and over again, I created a spreadsheet for myself called "File Locations". This spreadsheet has a column for what I would have named the file, and then a column with a link to get to the file. This has saved me valuable time searching for files, and freed me from frustration.
When I have a piece of information that I need to save, but I know I will only need it temporarily, I save it in a Notepad++ file called "Random Notes". I periodically delete information that is no longer needed from the file to keep it from getting too long and hard to read.
Organizing files, test plans, and information takes a little bit of time at first, but with practice it becomes second nature. And it saves you the time and frustration of constantly searching for the information you need. With the time you save, you can do more exploratory testing, which will help find new bugs; and you can write more test automation, which will free you up to do even more exploratory testing!