In his comments on my post Tying up some loose ends, Darren McMillan introduced me to the concept of Inspectional Testing, invented by Markus Gartner.
Reading about Inspectional Testing made me think of my own approach to testing, especially under strict time constraints, and I like to compare the way I do testing to the process of making a cutting board.
At first there is the piece of raw, untreated wood. I will start out by using a plane to shave the wood and make the rough surface a little bit smoother. I will make sure that I cover the entire surface, not skipping any parts. This is a fairly fast procedure, but on the other hand it only removes the worse irregularities.
Once I am done with the plane, I bring out the coarse P60 sandpaper, and again work my way across the whole surface, a little bit slower this time. Then I repeat the process with the slightly finer P100 paper. When I am down to the P150 sandpaper I have managed to turn the rough piece of wood into a smooth surface.
Finally I take the P180 sandpaper and work on those special spots that need some extra attention.
This pretty much sums up how I normally test: A layered approach going from coarse to fine, an approach that works very well with Thread-Based Test Management.