Time Management for System Administrators
Publisher: O'Reilly Media
Final Release Date: November 2005
Pages: 228

Time is a precious commodity, especially if you're a system administrator. No other job pulls people in so many directions at once. Users interrupt you constantly with requests, preventing you from getting anything done. Your managers want you to get long-term projects done but flood you with requests for quick-fixes that prevent you from ever getting to those long-term projects. But the pressure is on you to produce and it only increases with time. What do you do?

The answer is time management. And not just any time management theory--you want Time Management for System Administrators, to be exact. With keen insights into the challenges you face as a sys admin, bestselling author Thomas Limoncelli has put together a collection of tips and techniques that will help you cultivate the time management skills you need to flourish as a system administrator.

Time Management for System Administrators understands that an Sys Admin often has competing goals: the concurrent responsibilities of working on large projects and taking care of a user's needs. That's why it focuses on strategies that help you work through daily tasks, yet still allow you to handle critical situations that inevitably arise.

Among other skills, you'll learn how to:

  • Manage interruptions
  • Eliminate timewasters
  • Keep an effective calendar
  • Develop routines for things that occur regularly
  • Use your brain only for what you're currently working on
  • Prioritize based on customer expectations
  • Document and automate processes for faster execution

What's more, the book doesn't confine itself to just the work environment, either. It also offers tips on how to apply these time management tools to your social life. It's the first step to a more productive, happier you.

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oreillyTime Management for System Administrators
 
4.5

(based on 8 reviews)

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5.0

The Life Line of System Administration

By Wolf

from Vienna, Austria, Europe

About Me Educator, Sys Admin

Verified Reviewer

Pros

  • Easy to understand
  • Life Line
  • Survival Kit For Sysadmin
  • Well-written

Cons

    Best Uses

    • Expert
    • System Administrator

    Comments about oreilly Time Management for System Administrators:

    I'm a sysadmin for all of my work life (which is now more than 22 years) and have been on the brink of total personal system failure (aka burnout) more times that I dare to count.
    The last time working took a turn for the worse (2006) I got myself a copy of Thomas' book and held on to his advice until I had myself dragged out of the swamp.

    Since then, which is now more than 7 years, every time the flood of work load rises, I take out the (slightly battered) book and start living the rules.
    I recommend this book to all my colleagues (that are still living) and friends, for my apprentices it is required reading.

    But it didn't only help my survive in a trade faster than light, it's also fun reading.

    So, to all sysadmins out there:
    Get a copy (preferably a printed one), a pencil and a small notepad (the analogue kind), place it near your pillow and survive another day.

    Live long and keep your heads up
    Wolf

    (2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

     
    5.0

    Buy this for your boss & colleagues

    By Martin G

    from Pittsburgh, PA

    About Me Sys Admin

    Verified Reviewer

    Pros

    • Helpful examples
    • Knows his audience

    Cons

      Best Uses

      • Intermediate
      • Novice
      • Student

      Comments about oreilly Time Management for System Administrators:

      I have been a Sysadmin for 5 years. The environment I work in is fast paced and chaotic. We deal with numerous internal customers, all clamoring for our attention and interrupting us. I want to make a difference, instead of just churning through daily requests and scrambling at the next interruption. I want to get control of my time, and spend more of it with my family. In short, this is exactly the book I needed to read.
      Tom's goal is to save you time, allowing you to spend it on more important pursuits. In the first half of the book, he details a time management system he calls "The Cycle." He takes his time to present his time management technique and explain why and how it works. The other half of the book is spent imparting his wisdom from almost 25 years of system administration. It is in this part where I found the best advice and the most helpful insights.

      The Highlights:

      Boss management
      Many people do not even realize this is a major part of your job and career. Your boss has the single largest impact on your work life besides yourself. Tom gives great advice on how to communicate and help your boss, thereby helping yourself.

      Long Term Goal management
      Because of our constant interruption-driven work pattern and chaotic atmosphere, we do a poor job of long term goal setting and management. The book works with you on writing down your long term goals and creating intermediate steps to reach them.

      Technical examples for non-technical issues
      This is not a technical book, rather it focuses on the non-technical aspect of time management. Regardless, Tom does a great job of using technical examples to get his non-technical point across.

      Problems:

      The Single To-Do list
      Tom is a big proponent of a single to-do list for both personal and professional items. The issue here is that your work should already have a request tracking system. How do you marry your personal list with your work system. Copying your work requests down to paper is a waste of time. Putting personal things in your work system is not a good idea.

      Mutual Interruption Shields are never 100%
      Even when you have a MIS, there are always a couple users who feel you are their personal sysadmin. You want to be approachable but you do not want people to approach you. At work, I am not on the MIS rotation, but that does not stop users from interrupting me.
      In summary, this book is worth your dollars and your time. Even if you are skeptical of his system, the book is worth a read for ideas and insight. It should be given to every new sysadmin when hired, and anyone who manages sysadmins. I plan on recommending it to my boss and colleagues.

      This book was given to me to review as part of O'Reilly Usergroups.

      (4 of 4 customers found this review helpful)

       
      5.0

      Still not just for sysadmins, 2 years later

      By lamech

      from Undisclosed

      Comments about oreilly Time Management for System Administrators:

      I've just rediscovered Time Management for System Administrators after 2 years, and am rereading it in the context of a new job that is larger in scale, more complex, and more demanding. It's a real testament to the quality of the advice in this little book that Tom Limoncelli's thoughts are still just as relevant, and just as effective for me as they were 2 years ago. He is still helping me reshape time, interruptions, and priorities at work and in my social life.

      Everyone else on this page is already saying most of what I'd say about why this book is so good, but I want to reiterate: it would be a shame if you let yourself be put off by the author's comment in the opening pages about how the book is "not for programmers." I think he means a very particularly rarefied kind of programmer, one who doesn't get interrupted all day, one who doesn't have to support production systems and deal with "customers" (even if those customers are other developers and/or sysadmins). I'm not even sure those exist. In any case, for the rest of us who live in the grey area in between "hardcore" sysadmins and architecture astronauts--for anyone "technical" who has to deal with interruptions and time pressure--do yourself a huge favour: read this book, absorb what you can, put it down, come back after a long time, and read it again.

       
      4.0

      Essential for all Sysadmins -Makes you smile with enough time at hand

      By Ramesh

      from Undisclosed

      Comments about oreilly Time Management for System Administrators:

      I had a tough pattern as a solo sysad at my company and this book helped me a lot in organising my time. Thanks a lot Thomas for this book has given me a lot of time to work on the critical projects and still learn real good things. All the firefighting and customer drills apart this is one Definitive Guide if you want to go home Early and Smiling.

      Guys get to read this informative video blog on SAN tutorials and jobs (http://storage-jobs.blogspot.com) see the salaries and start managing your time well to get those big perks.

      (2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

       
      5.0

      Time Management for Techies who get Interrupted Frequently

      By Jeanne Boyarsky

      from Undisclosed

      Comments about oreilly Time Management for System Administrators:

      How many times do you get interrupted from your "main" task in a day? "Time Management for Techies who get Interrupted Frequently" could have been the title of this book. While the real title of this book is "Time Management for System Administrators," it is really useful for any techie who faces interruptions. And that's most of us!

      In the preface, the author states "This book is not for programmers. Beta readers told me that programmers should find this book extremely useful, but ... deserve their own book." I agree with the beta readers - developers benefit from this book plenty. We support production applications, have emergency issues and are frequently called on to answer tech questions..

      The book introduces readers to traditional time management concepts in case they are unfamiliar with them. Then the author adapts those techniques to work well when your priorities change throughout the day. There are also chapters are reducing stress, e-mail management and automation.

      I found the techniques on prioritizing to be much more relevant than the typical time management book. Since the book is not teaching a technology, it was easier to read than the typical white book with an animal on the cover. The quality is high as you would expect.

      I read this 200 page book in four days. It was hard to put down! How much would you pay to have a better handle on your time and responsibilities? At $25, this book pays for itself in no time!

      (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

       
      5.0

      invaluable, and not just for sysadmins!

      By dakegra

      from Undisclosed

      Comments about oreilly Time Management for System Administrators:

      I loved this book, even though I'm not a system admin as such, but I do work in a busy IT department. I've tried various time management schemes recently, such as David Allen's 'Getting Things Done' amongst others, and found them all to be a little abstract. I can sort of see what they're getting at, but when it comes to putting them into practice, the systems kind of fall apart on me.

      However, Thomas Limoncelli's book is different. It's *practical*. And he uses real-life examples, which actually work!

      Written in a friendly, conversational style, the book covers the high-level concepts such as managing interruptions, checklists and the overall principles of time management. That done, he moves onto his Cycle system then how to prioritise tasks effectively, how to deal with stress and documenting your processes and workflows. The book finishes off with some system admin-specific tips on how to automate processes.

      I can't recommend this book enough. I've been pushing it on my work colleagues, and can already see a difference in how I can manage mine and my team's workloads. Highly recommended.

      (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

       
      4.0

      Review of <em>Time Management for System Administrators</em>

      By genehack

      from Undisclosed

      Comments about oreilly Time Management for System Administrators:

      System administrators have a stereotypical reputation for grumpiness and irritability. Some times 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).

      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.

      (0 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

       
      3.0

      Read it along with The Art of Project Management

      By Sankarshan Mukhopadhyay

      from Undisclosed

      Comments about oreilly Time Management for System Administrators:

      There is a definite reason why this book should be read along with The Art of Project Management. Don't be puzzled by the title which includes SysAdmins. Time management is a problem for Project Managers as well as a majority of mere mortals. The book is not a Do-It-Yourself Guide to Time Management, instead it provides some simple (and I daresay effective) insights into how to manage time.

      The part which would interest folks include the chapter on Time Wasters and of course email management. The Cycle System of Management which spans quite a few chapters provides a way to manage time as well as put a priority to tasks.

      Like all OReilly books in the category, it is well written in a flowing style that manages to sustain the interest of the readers. Read it once and keep reading separate sections of it as and when you feel like. It would become a must have for the shelf.

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