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Time Management for System Administrators: Time Management From A Geek's Perspective

December 6, 2005

Sebastopol, CA--Most time management books are written for people who have some difference between "work" and "play" in their lives. They're written for people who can be persuaded to give up on a problem, or at least pause in pursuing a solution. They're written for people who react negatively at being interrupted in their work to help you set your digital watch. In short, most time management books are not written for a typical system administrator. But Time Management for System Administrators by Thomas A. Limoncelli (O'Reilly, US $24.95) is written by a man who can date two people at once (he insists they both knew about the other) and still find time to keep the servers running.

As David Blank-Edelman says in his foreword to the book, "Tom's first book 'The Practice of System and Network Administration' does a superb job of telling you how to build a sane and organized infrastructure." His new book, however, tells the reader how to stay sane and organized while doing it.

This short, practical volume will really help. As Limoncelli puts it "Within the first couple of pages you will learn how to save an hour per week. If you can find seven other tips like it, you'll save eight hours per week, which is one 'work-day.' Saving a work-day per week is 2.5 work-months per year. What would you do with 2.5 extra months each year?"

Limoncelli starts out with some principles of time management most useful to system administrators before the first important lesson: "How to deal with an interrupting customer without sounding like a jerk." Or, as the title of Chapter 2, puts it "Focus vs. Interruptions." According to Limoncelli , this is the single most important lesson of the book, "System administrators can't get their job done when they are constantly interrupted by users with questions and requests. The book puts a heavy emphasis on controlling interruptions, reducing them and better handling them when they get through your interruption shield. The typical office worker is interrupted every three minutes by a phone call, email, instant message, or other distraction. The problem is that it takes about eight uninterrupted minutes for the brain to get into a really creative state."

Among other skills, the reader learns how to:

  • Manage interruptions
  • Eliminate timewasters
  • Keep an effective calendar
  • Develop routines for things that occur regularly
  • Focus on the task at hand
  • Prioritize based on customer expectations
  • Document and automate processes for faster execution
  • Limoncelli has more than fifteen years of system administration experience and has taught workshops on time management at conferences since 2003. He had good reasons for writing Time Management for System Administrators: "I overhear people at parties complaining about their system administrators not managing their own time very well. I manage my time well and thought I could put my techniques on paper and help a lot of people. The book is only 200 pages, so it's a fast read. If you don't have time to read this book, you need this book."

    As Blank-Edelman says in the preface, time management would be futile if sys admins didn't have two things on their side:

    1) Themselves
    2) Tom Limoncelli

    Additional Resources:

  • Chapter 4, "The Cycle System"
  • More information about the book, including table of contents, index, author bio, and samples
  • A cover graphic in JPEG format
  • Time Management for System Administrators
    Thomas A. Limoncelli
    ISBN: 0-596-00783-3, 200 pages, $24.95 US
    1-800-998-9938; 1-707-827-7000

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