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Time Management for System Administrators

samzenpus posted more than 8 years ago | from the slipping-into-the-future dept.

Book Reviews 144

genehack writes "System administrators have a stereotypical reputation for grumpiness and irritability. Sometimes this misanthropy is a cultivated pose, designed to deter casual or trivial requests that would take time away from more important activities like playing nethack and reading netnews. More often, however, sysadmins are disgruntled simply because they can't seem to make any headway on the dozens of items clogging up their todo lists. If you're an example of the latter case, you may find some help in Time Management for System Administrators, the new book from Thomas Limoncelli (who you may recognize as one of the co-authors of the classic The Practice of System and Network Administration). Read the rest of genehack's review.

This slim book (only 226pp) packs a large amount of helpful information about making better use of your time at work, so that you can make some headway on at least some of those tasks that have piled up around you, while still managing to have a life outside of work. One of Limoncelli's main points is that sysadmins have to develop some way of effectively dealing with the constant stream of interruptions in their life if they're going to accomplish anything. The other point is that they also need a good tracking system to make sure they don't lose track of new, incoming requests in the process of dealing with existing ones. The book continually reinforces these two points, and presents several alternative, complementary ways to accomplish them.

The first three chapters deal with high-level, generic issues: principles of time management, managing interruptions, and developing checklists and routines to help deal with the chaos of day-to-day system administration. The middle third of the book details how to use "the cycle system", Limoncelli's task management plan for sysadmins. Basically, it's a hybrid between Franklin-Covey A-B-C prioritization and day planning and David Allen GTD-style todo lists, with a few sysadmin-specific tweaks thrown in. The final chapters of the book address a grab-bag of issues: task prioritization, stress management, dealing with the flood of email that all admins seem to get, identifying and eliminating the time sinks in your environment, and documenting and automating your work-flow.

In general, I think this is a great book for sysadmins that are looking to begin addressing time management problems. People that have already done some investigation of time management techniques (like the aforementioned Franklin-Covey and GTD systems) may find less value here -- but I still think the book will be interesting, especially the chapters detailing the workings of "the cycle system". Personally, after reading this book, I don't see any reason to move away from my modified GTD system, but I have gone back to using some daily checklists, which are helping me keep on top of my repeating tasks a lot better. I suspect that any working sysadmin will take away at least two or three productivity-enhancing tips from this book."

You can purchase Time management tips for sysdadmins from Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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More time to throw away (4, Funny)

InsaneProcessor (869563) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689314)

Maybe if I had time, I would read the book!

Re:More time to throw away (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689368)

I can relate. I stopped buying $50 USD programming books until I find the time to read the ones that I got. It's been six months since I bought one.

Re:More time to throw away (1)

shokk (187512) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689656)

Haw hAw HAW!!!
Seriously, the book comes with a trial for O'Reilly's Safari. I found that reading the PDF, I finished the book in a weekend, while had I cracked the physical pages it would have taken me longer. I was able to keep the Safari window (no relation to Apple's browser, I'm on a PC =-P) in a Firefox tab and flip back to the book when I had a 5-10 minute break, or even instead of checking my non-work email. Now, what to do with all this spare time...

Re:More time to throw away (3, Funny)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689658)

I took a Speed Reading course once, and read "War & Peace" in 20 minutes.

It's about Russia.

fixed (0, Offtopic)

Janitha (817744) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689315)

... and reading slashdot...


Re:fixed (1)

rabeldable (851423) | more than 8 years ago | (#14690272)


Some tips (5, Interesting)

suso (153703) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689318)

When I worked at Kiva Networking, one of the great things that really worked for us was to have a person who was on call, got paged and took care of daytime requests. Each week, that person would change. We wrote programs to manage who was the POC (we called it the stick). When you were not the stick, you were not to be bothered and thus you had more focus and energy to complete your other projects. Another thing that we did was strongly encourage people to email their requests instead of come over and ask directly. This is probably essential. You have to speak louder than the people who want to resist communicating more through email. Trust me when I say that you will win in the end, if you don't, then you haven't been given the authority that you should be as a system administrator.

Honestly, I think a lot of places do this now. At the time, it seemed new and it worked and continues to work well. It will even work when you have 2 sysadmins, probably the optimum is to have about 4 because if you have any more than that, you lose your rhythm with what is going on with the company a bit.

Re:Some tips (4, Funny)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689350)

Another thing that we did was strongly encourage people to email their requests instead of come over and ask directly.
> mail
Please help. My email doesn't work. I can't send anything.
Thank you!

Re:Some tips (1)

JWW (79176) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689433)


All fixed. Thats assuming your user is as versed in unix as he appears to be.

Re:Some tips (1)

JFitzsimmons (764599) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689729)

I guess you wouldn't be one of those users then would you? /aixcmds3/mail.htm []

Re:Some tips (1)

JWW (79176) | more than 8 years ago | (#14690026)

What I actually meant that if the user could use mail from the command line, then they could probably find the talk command and figure out how to use it...

see: []

It was a joke.

Of course a sysadm with too little time probably has mesg n anyway.

Re:Some tips (1)

jrockway (229604) | more than 8 years ago | (#14690289)

Actually, that would be ^mail^talk. But I assume you already knew that.

Re:Some tips (3, Funny)

goofyspouse (817551) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689586)

It was a password problem. Emailing a fresh one for you.

Re:Some tips (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14689865)

It may look stupid, but such things happen. I know someone who works for the city where I live and, when his password expired, they sent him a new one by email.

Re:Some tips (1)

neomajic (838933) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689907)

Don't email them new password. Have them use the new and improved password changer - fdisk. :P

Re:Some tips (2, Funny)

PepeGSay (847429) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689891)

You laugh, but I worked at a company that sent out emails about network issues. The funniest ones were when we wouldn't have email for an hour or so, then it would come back up and we'd get an email saying "We are experiencing trouble with the email servers. We will notify you when the problem is resolved." Then the next email would be the resolution. Always got a chuckle from it.

Re:Some tips (2, Interesting)

JoeyLemur (10451) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689435)

We do that here... although instead of 'stick', its 'the helmet' (its an old department in-joke... don't ask.) It works, assuming that you can train/break your user herd to:

- Use your ticketing system instead of filing requests via email
- Use your ticketing system instead of walking up to your cube and bothering you
- Not walk up to your cube at all
- Not mail specific/favourite admins specifically for specific requests

*sigh* If only HR wouldn't throw a fit if I replaced the plastic battleaxe on my cube wall with real one...

Re:Some tips (1)

suso (153703) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689500)

although instead of 'stick', its 'the helmet' (its an old department in-joke... don't ask.)

Haha, that's like how we named it the stick. We needed something visually to use to show who was the stick each week. The first thing that we used was a plunger. Although I think the stick name came first. POC wasn't really a commonly used term until later I think.

Re:Some tips (2, Insightful)

CagedBear (902435) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689581)

Sounds good. But how do you convince management that focus is required in the first place? I know some executives and salespeople who figure a programmer should be able to write great code in 20 minute increments between phone calls and meetings.

Re:Some tips (1)

digitalhermit (113459) | more than 8 years ago | (#14690094)

Drive-bys are a part of IT though..
One thing I've done when busy is to keep a visible list of items on my desk. When people walk by I put their request on the bottom of the list and tell them I'll get it to it in order it was received. Of course, some things have a higher priority than others, but it's up to you to decide this. It works really well when things get busy. If someone complains, it's a simple matter to have them explain the people above them why they take priority.

Re:Some tips (1)

CFTM (513264) | more than 8 years ago | (#14690278)

Being a member of a help desk/network support staff, I can attest to the fact that if you let them end users will push you around. There are a few people on my staff who get bullied in to doing pointless shit for the same obnoxious people day in and day out. Never happens to me though; I find that being polite up to the point that they try to tell me how to do my job, at which point I end the conversation and inform them that the problem that they "think" they are having is not the problem that they are having and that if they'd like me to continue working on their problem to let me do so. For most people, this is very effective for some it isn't and they'll complain and my boss will side with me.

I think a lot of sys admins could save themeselves a lot of headaches by just setting proper boundaries. They key is to just be polite and NOT condescending; if you pull these two things off MOST people will give you the space-time-resources that you need to finish your task. People who are still pushy and rude to me after I've attempted inform them to stop, I won't help. Like anything, it's just about boundaries. I know I may sound like the help desk guy from hell...oh wait this is slashdot you all probably agree with me anyhow ;)

The real question.. (0, Offtopic)

Leeesher (831509) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689327)

Are there any tips for improving my minesweeper times?

Re:The real question.. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14689357)

Re:The real question.. (3, Funny)

xitshsif (909565) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689366)

Uninstall Windows

Re:The real question.. (2, Funny)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689376)

Start with the corners

No matter where you click, the first square will never be a bomb

You don't have to flag all the bombs, if you can click all the empty spaces & numbered squares. Alternatively, you don't have to click all the empty spaces & numbered squares, if you flag all the bombs. It depends on how you visualize the field.

Re:The real question.. (1)

JWW (79176) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689450)

Oh, I am wasting so much time on this story, but I just had to respond.

<Chevy Chase>
See the bomb.... be..
be.. the bomb
</Chevy Chase>

Re:The real question.. (2, Funny)

PFI_Optix (936301) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689493)

Bah. You clearly don't know how to improve times the slashdot way.

edit your winmine.ini file. Use realistic times. There's a call center out there where they're probably still trying to beat my 103 second Expert record.

Re:The real question.. (1)

Toad McFrog Esq. (850532) | more than 8 years ago | (#14690020)

You can't just edit the .ini file...what if someone does beat your "realistic" time? You _must_ make the file read only to protect your status for future generations to marvel over.

Re:The real question.. (1)

trex005 (845095) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689738)

YES!!! I wrote a program that can beat it for you in one second. E-mail me at travis (remove all this because it is here to keep bots from knowing my E-mail address) at newcovsoft dot (remove this too) com

Re:The real question.. (1)

sinucus (85222) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689961)

of course... xyzzy, enter, shift... Any good sysadmin should know that one

...I wouldn't need the talcom powder (0)

Syberghost (10557) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689337)

If I had time to read this book, I wouldn't need the book.

Re:...I wouldn't need the talcom powder (1)

winkydink (650484) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689434)

Tom addresses this issue in the very first chapter.

Re:...I wouldn't need the talcom powder (0, Troll)

BagOBones (574735) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689524)

But yet you have time to post on /.

Re:...I wouldn't need the talcom powder (1)

shokk (187512) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689641)

We're not friggin robots. Even given that we have time to post a tiny blurb on slashdot, people still need time to breathe and relax. Burn yourself out if you like, but don't demand that the rest of us treat this job as if we were trading on the floor of the NY Stock Exchange.

Re:...I wouldn't need the talcom powder (1)

Syberghost (10557) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689712)

We're not friggin robots. Even given that we have time to post a tiny blurb on slashdot, people still need time to breathe and relax. Burn yourself out if you like, but don't demand that the rest of us treat this job as if we were trading on the floor of the NY Stock Exchange.

For instance, some of us choose to relax by paraphrasing classic Marx Brothers jokes on Slashdot in response to book reviews, and some choose to relax by letting their heads explode in response.

The subject line should have been your first clue. Perhaps you didn't have time to read it.

My list (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14689342)

(1) Don't browse the web when there's work to be done.

(2) Do the damn work, in order of Importance of Requestor, with slight balances towards urgency of work - i.e., do first what not doing would get you fired.

(3) Don't play nethack unless there's no work to be done and you're bored of browsing the web.

(4) Learn to say no to unreasonable tasks, like getting up in the morning.

too busy for /. (1)

Leeesher (831509) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689348)

How will we let the sysadmins that need this know of its existence? Surely those individuals aren't reading /.

One task at a time... (3, Interesting)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689354)

I read somewhere that you should only focus on task at a time. I been applying this at work. I work on one Help Desk ticket at a time and completely ignore any phone calls, emails or IMs until I'm done with the that ticket. Work seems like a lot easier now as my productivity has improved -- except for when Slashdot gets in the way.

Quiet, I'm working! (2, Insightful)

Faust7 (314817) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689470)

I work on one Help Desk ticket at a time and completely ignore any phone calls, emails or IMs until I'm done with the that ticket.

"Hey, the network guys are seeing some suspicious traffic - "
"Hey, our loads are skyrocketing - "
"Hey, our front-end web servers have just crashed - "
"Hey, the director of systems administration would like to speak with you - "
"Hey, security's coming over - "
"Sir, we'll need you to come with us."
"La - "

Re:Quiet, I'm working! (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689533)

That's what happens when you don't limit your reading of /. to your breaks.

Re:One task at a time... (1)

killjoe (766577) | more than 8 years ago | (#14690047)

"except for when Slashdot gets in the way."

Don't underestimate how much slashdot or reddit eat up your time. I am almost ready to put for slashdot in my hosts file.

I said ALMOST. Just one more hit, I know I can quit, I can quit anytime I want.

The most important lesson of time management (5, Insightful)

winkydink (650484) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689359)

is self-discipline. You can buy all the organizers, PDAs and other assorted tools, but unless you make a commitment to learning how tomanage your time and then actually doing it, you will fail.

The commitment required is not insubstantial. You will have to overcome years of bad habits.

It's not insurmountable, but don't think that by reading this (or any of the other books... I prefer 7 Habits myself) that you have learned time management. Reading the book is only the first step in a long journey.

It is worth it though. And I recommend it to anybody, especially to people who think their lives are so interrupt-driven that they couldn't possibly benefit from time menagement. Guess what? You're the folks who will benefit the most.

Re:The most important lesson of time management (1)

spun (1352) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689448)

I agree, 7 Habits is a great book, especially for sysadmins, most of whom spend far to much time in firefighter mode. If you spend all your time putting out fires, stop! Start doing what it takes to make sure the fires don't start in the first place. It will seem like everything is falling apart at first, but then things will start to come together and you will have more time for important things, like reading slashdot ot playing nethack.

Also, winkydink is right about learning time management, or really about changing any ingrained behavior. It took me into my thirties to realize that I couldn't just decide to be different, then wake up the next morning a new person. Any kind of personal change takes commitment and a willingness to face the fact that, yet again, you have screwed up and you aren't where you want to be yet. You'll get there as long as you don't use your failure as an excuse to stop trying.

Thinking about it, that may be part of the reason I love computers so much. You tell them to be something new, and they are. Instantly. Unlike people...

Re:The most important lesson of time management (1)

JamesTRexx (675890) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689749)

Thinking about it, that may be part of the reason I love computers so much. You tell them to be something new, and they are. Instantly.

*to my Dell C810* Be an AMD 64! Be an AMD 64! Be an AMD 64!

Re:The most important lesson of time management (1)

hazem (472289) | more than 8 years ago | (#14690196)

especially for sysadmins, most of whom spend far to much time in firefighter mode

I had the great pleasure of working at the engineering school of a university. My boss had been there for years and built the place up from nothing, basically. It was very well organized and ran very well. We didn't have many windows boxes, which helped - it was mostly sun sparc stations and Tektronix X-terminals.

We spent most of our time doing what he called "polishing the fire-engine". That was just basic maintenence - checking printers, servers, logs, tidying labs, etc. We had a lot of time to go visit our users (profs and students) and find out what things were bugging them.

It was so great! I got to spend a lot of time researching new offerings, etc. I also spent a lot of time talking to profs. What I loved would be that I would start the conversation, "how's the computer going". They would always say "just fine" and we'd chat. Just as I turned to leave, they'd say "oh yeah... this program is doing...".

What I loved was that we were able to keep everyone happy be getting from them the little things that were bothering them before they became big things.

As for managing tasks, I would ask people to e-mail me anything they needed... even if I was just there talking to them. Once I got them to do this, I was able to manage my "to do" list through my inbox.

Of course, if there was a network problem (rare - and usually not caused by us), they can't e-mail, but I would print up some signs saying what was up and post them - and then tell the dept. secretary what's up.

Most people don't mind if things get broke from time to time, or if they have to wait for something. The vital thing is that they know what's going on and when to expect it to be fixed, or when they can get their thing done.

Sysadmins don't often have good people skills, but they're vital for keeping the whole system, including the users, working well.

Re:The most important lesson of time management (1)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14690142)

So lets say that not only are interrupts my problem, but just plain laziness....any suggestions for that? I'm trying to break a 22 year old habit, and its not exactly working (hence why I'm posting on Slashdot during work).

Re:The most important lesson of time management (1)

winkydink (650484) | more than 8 years ago | (#14690153)

Same deal. Self-discipline. You'll either change or be a slacker for life. Up to you.

Time Management Course (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14689360)

While working at my previous employer, I was told we all had to take a time-management course. The course consisted of one blowhard, who liked to talk a lot about making lists, sticking to goals and how to tell people no means no. During the course, I was time-managing quite efficiently by equally planning lunch and what I was going to do on my drive home. Needless to say, I received a meaningless certificate, and I effectively wasted an entire days worth of time. We had some system admins in the course with us, but curiously they were called out on pages and emergencies so often, that I think the eventual goal of the course was lost on them... so sad.

Re:Time Management Course (4, Informative)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689440)

We had some system admins in the course with us, but curiously they were called out on pages and emergencies so often, that I think the eventual goal of the course was lost on them... so sad.

Actually, the system admins might have been managing their time better than you. Just because the pager goes off in the middle of a meeting that doesn't mean that the server caught on fire. A pager can be a good time management tool if it can get you out of a boring meeting.

Typical sysadmin schedule... (2, Funny)

brxndxn (461473) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689386)

39 hours per work week (a couple minutes late every day)

10 hours.. on phone with people that don't speak english even though they're 'support' for American companies
2 hours.. drooling over computer parts with coworkers
2 hours.. 'rigging' cute females' computers with problems
10 hours.. Slashdot and other forums
2 hours.. porn
4 hours.. blaming all problems on lack of hardware budget
8 hours.. being condescending to coworkers who make more money than them
1 hour.. fixing computer problems

All overtime is spent eating pizza and fixing computer problems they couldn't fix during their one real hour of work.

Re:Typical sysadmin schedule... (1)

Abstract_Me (799786) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689439)

"What would you say, ya do here?"

Re:Typical sysadmin schedule... (1)

dkuntz (220364) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689514)

What is this... 39hrs/week thing?

I've not worked a 40hr week in ages...
In 3 days I've done 42-48hrs or more...and thats 7 days weeks, 10-16/hr days. And I've not had a day off in years. Not even for Christmas.

Re:Typical sysadmin schedule... (1)

brxndxn (461473) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689544)

Then you're not a sysadmin; rather, you are a slave.

Re:Typical sysadmin schedule... (1)

jaygatsby27 (894445) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689654)

Holy crap! I thought I was the only who did this. That's last week's schedule exactly.

Re:Typical sysadmin schedule... (2, Funny)

stupidfoo (836212) | more than 8 years ago | (#14690254)


Please come to my office.

Your Boss

Re:Typical sysadmin schedule... (1)

MrCopilot (871878) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689815)

39 hours per work week (a couple minutes late every day)
2 hours.. porn
You have built up quit the tolerance, if it takes 24mins a day for your "fix".

Just how many years have you been on this schedule, Dr Jerkinstein?

Interesting... (1)

Skiron (735617) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689401)

Apart from the 'nethack and browsing the web', the article sums me up to a tee - I get real 'snappy' with users as I walking somewhere to do fix something with my head about to explode and I get the famous "Ah, Nick! Just a quick problem..."; PUT IT ON THE BLOODY HELPDESK...

On Monday I am going to get work to buy me this book.



Re:Interesting... (2, Funny)

rts008 (812749) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689457)

Save yer hard-earned $, and handle it like THE PRO!:

( [] ).

This has all you need to know! ;)

Nick... Burns? (2, Funny)

GungaDan (195739) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689663)


Show of Hands (5, Funny)

JWW (79176) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689405)

Ok, how many of you are reading a review of this book on /. while at work?

Oh, the irony. ...and yes, my hand is up too.

Re:Show of Hands (1)

ExMember (212079) | more than 8 years ago | (#14690822)

How many of you discovered a tool that may make you much more productive as a system administrator during the time you have set aside to monitor relevant news and stay abreast of the industry zeitgeist?

See? Me too.

I'm sort of like this (1)

killermookie (708026) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689417)

I tend to put aside the little issues. Tickets will slowing build up in my ticketing bin until at some point there's so many that I need to finish them before someone notices. Most of the time all I need to do is write a one line sentence as the issue is not critical, put in my time (1 minute is the minimum) and close it off.

Today I just closed 5 of those. Some of the tickets were sitting there for almost 2 weeks.

They're not critical and I'm usually either not in the mood to close them right there or I'm in the middle of doing something more important.

It's a little bit of priorities and procrastination.

Obvious solutions (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689436)

dealing with the flood of email that all admins seem to get
Setup a filter to send certain e-mails to your junk box.

I find that filtering the words "help," "questoin,"* and "problem" works quite well.

eliminating the time sinks in your environment
This one is kind of obvious guys and girls... Hint, if you're reading this, go back to work.

*Yes, I misspelled this by accident, but so do a lot of people. Question. See, I can spell it correctly if i want to.

Works for me! (2, Interesting)

Saint Aardvark (159009) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689446)

I picked up this book maybe a month ago after a particularly stressful week, and it (plus the new guy who just started) has made a big difference for me. I feel more on top of things, and like I'm keeping better track of what I've promised/delivered/need to work on.

As the reviewer said it may be less valuable for those of you that are already doing something like this. And I'm not taking everything it says as gospel. But you could do a hell of a lot worse than to pick up this book, inhale it several times over a weekend (it's short), and start using what it teaches.

And hey, he co-wrote The Practice of System and Network Administration, another excellent book. I'll take a look at anything he's got to show.

one way.. (5, Insightful)

pizpot (622748) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689465)

I tried two ways as a lone sys admin for 100 users of an application:

1) Browse the net all day doing as little real work as possible. Take requests from users and wait 4 hours before doing each one. Keep a list of requests and check-off things as you do them, every once in a while getting embarassed because you didn't keep your word.

2) Do all requests right away. Answer all phone messages and emails right away. Get every request done in basically the time it took plus the 15 mins it took to finish what you were doing.

Method 2 was way better. The work ethic it takes is catchy too, and the whole company benefits. Both methods take the same exact amount of work, but with method 2 you don't wait . After two years like this, I was down to spending only 25% of the time on user jobs. ie) waiting time of zero for new jobs to get started. In my spare time I trained and programmed for the users eventually going from maintaining to writting apps.

You can be a solution or a problem, its up to you.

Re:one way.. (1)

the chao goes mu (700713) | more than 8 years ago | (#14690036)

I did the opposite. Went from writing apps (and 80+ hours weeks) to sysadmin spending 25% of my 40 hour week actually working. I think you moved in the wrong direction.

Re:one way.. (1)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14690193)

"Both methods take the same exact amount of work, but with method 2 you don't wait ."

Really? From your post it seems method 1 took significantly less work to do. Sure, you have to be a little embarrassed, but in the end it seems you are doing less work overall....

I just ordered it... (2, Funny)

ehaggis (879721) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689491) back to Quake!

Save $0.99 by buying the book here! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14689513)

Save yourself $0.99 by buying the book here: Time Management for System Administrators [] . And if you use the "secret" Instant Reward discount [] , you can save an extra 1.57%! That's a total savings of $1.25, or 7.24%!

Consider the source... (2, Interesting)

HalfOfOne (738150) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689527)

In reading this, it seems like a false ray of hope to a lot of sysadmins out there who are struggling. I fear what will happen is that they will free up their schedules only to be dumped on further by middle and upper management. It's not malice, it's a survival mechanism.

Your boss's job is to keep you busy. In an ideal world, your boss's job would just be to make sure x amount of work gets done and then their responsibility ends. In the real world, your boss gets fired if you're effective enough to have 25% of your time free and you look like you're slacking off. Various ploys about acting busy only get you so far, if you finish all the assigned tasks way ahead of time, and the other stuff isn't on the "hot" list, then they assume you can fit way more on that list.

So it comes down to this, if you're stressed and overworked, your (my) boss gets praised as long as they can keep the "hot" list hot. They call it pipelining here, as in "bend over for the pipelining". If you're not stressed, they find more to do or stop investing in timesaving admin tools, since you obviously don't need them.

Yes, my job sucks. Yes, I'm looking. No, I don't buy that lots of people don't have this problem, they just don't recognize it.

Re:Consider the source... (2, Insightful)

ScottCooperDotNet (929575) | more than 8 years ago | (#14690281)

If your staff at the HelpDesk / SysAdmin area is running at 100% all the time you're going to have employees who are skipping proper methodology, cutting corners and in the long run making the situation worse.

I am extremely grateful that at my new job that I work with a team, and we're not "maxxed out" all the time. This allows us to be proactive rather than purely reactive.

Nonsense, or? (1)

h_benderson (928114) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689529)

That must be the shortest book review ever published on Slashdot. Maybe the reviewer should read the book again, so he will manage to dedicate some more time for his next book review?

Well it changed my life (3, Insightful)

picklepuss (749206) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689547)

I didn't have particularly great time management skills before - they weren't horrid or anything, but I started to get really stressed out and started to forget things alot. The book did a lot for me. I'm getting a lot more done and feeling a lot less stressed out about it.

I realize to people who've had time management classes some of it might seem redundant. I would suggest that before you disregard the book, you at least go to the bookstore and skim the forward and maybe even the first chapter. The author makes a point about time managements systems and courses in general, and how they generally don't fully apply to systems administrators (from his personal experience in taking those courses and reading those books).

In particular, I found the section about interrupt shielding very important.

Also the idea of prioritizing task items along "perceived" priorities. That is, if you have two tasks that are at highest priority and one takes 10 minutes and the other takes 4 hours, you do the ten minute task first. There's a good chance that someone else is unable to complete something until that task is done. You still get both done in 4:10 minutes, but to the guy who was waiting on the 10 minute task, you're a hero. A great way to increase your perceived value without doing anything extra at all.

If you're constantly upset with everyone... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14689557)

Maybe you're in the wrong line of work?

Cultivated pose (1)

Misanthropy (31291) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689558)

I'm a cultivated pose!

Great ways of saving time as a sysadmin (3, Funny)

Kphrak (230261) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689610)

I'm surprised, so far no BOFHs have posted yet. Here are some ways to save time that probably haven't been mentioned in the book:

  1. Redirect the backups to /dev/null. This frees up lots of cumbersome time checking status and changing tapes, and backup time gets reduced to...oh, about 1.35 seconds.
  2. Kill -9 is your friend. Generally, if it's not part of the OS, it should probably be killed occasionally, and at random times. After all, if the process isn't running, you don't have to answer questions about it, you just say it isn't running out there and that they should try starting it. And the users love it, really, because it makes them faster; nothing like racing against the imminent death of your process to hurry you up.
  3. Forward your phone. That test line in the basement works well. The cafeteria will also appreciate UNIX-related calls; gives 'em something to do. And it gives you time to attack that pit of Ringwraiths in Angband Level 40 while they're sorting it out.
  4. If another tech department calls, remember the magic words: "It must be something on your end". A little tinkering with their on-server diagnostic tools will be sure to keep them busy for hours sorting out the nonexistant problem.
  5. Keep an Excuse Calendar [] for those troublesome times when a user actually gets through to you (which is about once a day, if you do it right).

For all the humorless pedants that are about to reply saying "This will get you fired"...what was your username again?

Re:Great ways of saving time as a sysadmin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14689936)

/dev/null - is that in the Control Panel somewhere? I don't see it......

Re:Great ways of saving time as a sysadmin (1)

matricii (873764) | more than 8 years ago | (#14690691)

If only Simon were around to see us now... I, being one of the few BOFHs around posting, realize that these tricks are good, but not always... You must also remember a simple fact: "Always make sure that your box is plugged into the UPS system. Don't feel bad about unplugging the servers though... If the power's out, why does it matter if people can access the servers if their computers are off?" As a matter of fact, I have my monitor, my router, and my box plugged each one into a different UPS. Those three servers each get plugged into the same UPS... It only takes a minute and a half for my script to run and shut them all down... Take that power consumption!

My Review (2, Interesting)

shokk (187512) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689620)

I was hoping for more, but a good part of the book seems to be rehash from the first book. The emphasis on PAA is almost useless to me because I try to do everything through my Treo 600. Still, after having looked at numerous Palm programs, I've found that NOTHING fits. The PAA, of course, being a sheet of paper at its most basic, is ultimately flexible. I'm not a palm programmer, so I can't "just write something for palm" to scratch my own need.

Instead I've done the next best thing, which is to write a Rails app for this, which is, of course, accessible from the Treo and just about any other place. []

All in all, there are some very good nuggets of info concentrated into the fewer pages of this book from the whole of the previous book, which did not wholly deal with time management and had those ideas spread throughout the book.
For an idea of what the book talks about, see the video here [] .

Re:My Review (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14690115)

If other sysadmin's are writing their own productivity apps, we might have stumbled on to one of the reasons they find themselves short on time. ; )

Re:My Review (1)

shokk (187512) | more than 8 years ago | (#14690188)

So use mine. ;-)
Seriously, this was written in Rails specifically because of the fast time to production. It was both a learning experience in Rails over a couple of weekends and a useful tool in the end.

Think in terms of computer science (4, Interesting)

misleb (129952) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689625)

Think of yourself as a multitasking operating system. The first thing you want to do is prioritize I/O bound processes. Make all your phone calls and read/send all your email first. While the harddrive (aka much slower coworkers) are busy processing your requests, get some real work done (aka CPU bound processing). Mask your interupts if you have to. After you've spent at least an hour or data from I/O is required, unmask interupts and process some of that data. Process any emails or phone calls and then get back to work. Rinse and repeat...


good book .. GTD will take you to the next level (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14689739)

This is a good, straightforward book, and I would definitely recommend to any sysadmin.

As David Allen teaches in his GTD book, making and reviewing lists is a very powerful tool.

And GTD is definitely the "PhD level" productivity philosophy. In fact, after using it for a few years, I realized that you can manage your ENTIRE LIFE using his philosophy, including personal, spirtual, and emotional growth. After all, life is just a bunch of outcomes you have to create, and to create those outcomes, you do one action at a time. Sounds simple but once you LIVE it, you'll realize how powerful it is.

The interesting thing about these books though, is that they only seem to work with people who are ALREADY organized to a certain degree, and want that "extra edge", or that extra insight. After all David Allen has been doing this for 20 years and has helped all kinds of people with all kinds of goals, obviously he's thought more about it than a busy IT worker. So it's good to take advantage of the knowledge. But if you're sloppy and disorganized, you probably won't "get it". That's okay though, if that's not who you are, that's not who you are. So I can understand that not everybody gets something from his book.

Re:good book .. GTD will take you to the next leve (1)

NickySantoro360 (931252) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689828)

Yep, I just finished it as well. You're right; it does seem geared towards those who are motivated by organization, already organized, and want a better option.


Surly (0, Flamebait)

pkcs11 (529230) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689767)

Nope, sysadmins are not grumpy because they can't manage their time. They're surly because the tech boom of the 1990's left them in an odd position of power. Allowing them to get away with being surly, rude and lazy.
Only problem now is, they no longer have the ability to leave a job and get another one on the drive home.

My suggestions for anyone (2, Informative)

capedgirardeau (531367) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689823)

Here are my suggestions:

Make a list and work from it religiously.

Work on one task at a time, context switching is very costly, various studies have proven once into a task, it can take upwards of 30 mins to get back to that same level of productive involvement after an interruption or concentration change of any sort. (This is probably the single most important change you can make)

Use asynchronous communication as much as possible, as it allows you to deal with things when you have completed something (email, IM).

Ignore your asynchronous communications while involved in a task. Don't have your client automatically check your email. Get your email when you have reached a natural break or completed what you were working on. Same with IM, put yourself 'Away' and don't look at what comes in until it is the proper time.

Tackle most difficult tasks first, break down if needed, but get the hardest things out of the way first.

Anything that you can handle totally, 100% in 5 mins or less do immediately, do not put those things off. If it is going to take longer than 5 mins, put it on the list, ranked accordingly. Again, this is avoid context switches later.

Work from a clean work area. Really no matter what you think, you will be more productive in a neat organized workspace. Read the studies, people who claimed to be more productive in a chaotic environment, were very surprised to learn that objective measurements and their own experience showed dramatic increases in productivity when forced to work from a organized, neat environment.

Practice these things, they can become invisible second nature if you actually practice them with serious self discipline in the beginning. Practice them, force yourself, you will thank me later. You will see over a 100% increase in your productivity if do all of the above. You will start succeeding in your job in ways you never thought possible if you want to, if you don't really want to, nothing is going to help, so be honest with yourself.


Why Grumpy? (2, Insightful)

3CRanch (804861) | more than 8 years ago | (#14689855)

I think they missed a point of one of the reasons for the irritability and grumpiness. I don't know about you, but pretty much the only people I see are the ones that are having problems and are pissed that they cannot get their work done. Granted its the nature of the business, but being understaffed (which is typical) and hearing nothing but complaints all day kinda lays the groundwork for being grumpy.

How about somebody write a book to give to the USERS to help them 1) document the error message, 2) learn how to unjam a printer, 3) how to change their own cartridges, 4) etc, etc. The list is huge.

Don't bitch about our grumpiness...its the only thing we have to fall back on under the scowls of all the users.

(gee, I hope I didn't sound too grumpy in this post ;)

Re:Why Grumpy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14690061)


Re:Why Grumpy? (1)

511pf (685691) | more than 8 years ago | (#14690565)

Mod parent up, please.

blasphemy (1)

sinucus (85222) | more than 8 years ago | (#14690010)

Anyone who dares say that they don't have enough time for "work" can't honest have any self respect calling themselves a nethacker. I demand that this blasphemous book be stricken of the sacred word "nethack."

In all seriousness. I found my solution to having no time to complete my projects. I quit and got a less demanding sysadmin job.

Audio interview (1)

ChrisDolan (24101) | more than 8 years ago | (#14690124)

Just this week, Josh McAdams released an audio interview [] with the author of this book, Tom Limoncelli

How to handle 90% of service requests quickly: (2, Funny)

MayorDefacto (586113) | more than 8 years ago | (#14690170)

"Have you tried turning it off and turning it back on again?"

#1 in science (1)

LordMyren (15499) | more than 8 years ago | (#14690219)

#1 is accountability. know what's actually happening.

most people have no idea how long they spend on their projects. it makes it very hard to appraise anything.

Love the cover art (2, Interesting)

harley_frog (650488) | more than 8 years ago | (#14690253)

One thing I do love about the Oreilly titles is their choices in cover art. The cover of "Time Management Tips for Sysadmins" [] is a wolverine. Very appropriate choice. ;)

What if (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14690334)

What if your just lazy?


Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14690603)

You MusT Love the investor's paradise that is the USA

you can check out but you can never leave (your neoliberal masters have forced 3rd world countries with low costs of living to keep their minimum income requirements for americans immigrants quite high).
drink your red bull and other caffeine drinks. Massa watches behind you....

and when you have some free time, read a book about how you can work even harder.

and if you see something on the internet about those lazy europeans and their 6 weeks of vacation a year and their low cost nationalized healthcare and cheap universities? Just put it out of your mind...

work little neoslaves, work....

EXACT same review on (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14690659)

Why didn't you just link to your review of this book? Then at least others would have the benefit of seeing multiple reviews to put yours in context. 89233-4538533?v=glance&n=283155 []
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