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Time Management for System Administrators 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.
Time Management for System Administrators
author Thomas A. Limoncelli
pages 226
publisher ORA
rating 8/10
reviewer genehack
ISBN 0-596-00783-3
summary Time management tips for sysdadmins

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."

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Time Management for System Administrators

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  • by InsaneProcessor ( 869563 ) on Friday February 10, 2006 @03:06PM (#14689314)
    Maybe if I had time, I would read the book!
    • 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.
    • 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...
    • I took a Speed Reading course once, and read "War & Peace" in 20 minutes.

      It's about Russia.

  • Some tips (Score:5, Interesting)

    by suso ( 153703 ) * on Friday February 10, 2006 @03:06PM (#14689318) Homepage Journal
    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.
    • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) <{akaimbatman} {at} {}> on Friday February 10, 2006 @03:11PM (#14689350) Homepage Journal
      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!
      • s/mail/talk/

        All fixed. Thats assuming your user is as versed in unix as he appears to be.
      • It was a password problem. Emailing a fresh one for you.
        • Don't email them new password. Have them use the new and improved password changer - fdisk. :P
        • I reset a users password once. And I was feeling a bit annoyed.

          Your password is set to orange3, OK?

          5 minutes later:

          Did you say you set it to orange3?
          Hmm, it's not working.
          Perhaps it needs time to propogate (it didn't but I was stalling).

          5 more minutes.

          Nope, I can't log in with that password.
          Hmm, how are you spelling orange?
          Aaah, that's your problem. Try o-r-i-n-j

      • by PepeGSay ( 847429 )
        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.
        • Here's what I got in a service bulletin from Insight Cable, a regional ISP/cable company in central Illinois:

          "(...) and restart your cable modem. If the aforementioned steps do not restore your Internet access, please visit our web site for additional troubleshooting information or to contact our support team."

          Thank god I moved six weeks later...
        • <rant>
          Now, is it a strictly US disease, or are people in other countries beset by idiots running the phone menu system?
          "Hello, thank you for calling Bork-U. Please listen carefully, as our menu options have changed..."
          Did they? When? Can my phone with the options cooked into the speed dial react to this? Would I have realized it anyway when I got Accounting instead of Technical Support?
          And has anyone felt like running amok at the airport when the goober at the gate uses the phrase "at this tim
    • Re:Some tips (Score:2, Interesting)

      by JoeyLemur ( 10451 )
      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 wal
      • 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 (Score:2, Insightful)

      by CagedBear ( 902435 )
      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.
    • 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.
    • 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 h
  • How will we let the sysadmins that need this know of its existence? Surely those individuals aren't reading /.
  • by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Friday February 10, 2006 @03:12PM (#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.
    • by Faust7 ( 314817 )
      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 - "
    • "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.
  • by winkydink ( 650484 ) * <> on Friday February 10, 2006 @03:13PM (#14689359) Homepage Journal
    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.
    • 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 abo
      • 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!
      • 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 - ch
    • 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).

  • 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 eat
  • 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.


  • by JWW ( 79176 ) on Friday February 10, 2006 @03:19PM (#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.
  • 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
  • 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! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Saint Aardvark ( 159009 ) * on Friday February 10, 2006 @03:25PM (#14689446) Homepage Journal
    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.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pizpot ( 622748 ) on Friday February 10, 2006 @03:29PM (#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.

    • 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.
    • "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....

  • by ehaggis ( 879721 ) on Friday February 10, 2006 @03:32PM (#14689491) Homepage Journal back to Quake!
  • 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 hav
    • 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.

    • ... if your company has absolutely no metrics to measure your perfromance.

      I work 7 hours each day, not a single minute more (and it has been like this for several years) and I know how productive I am in comparision to others colleagues, what were the objectives for me and my team each year, half year and quarter.

      We all browse the internet while in the office, have flexible time, can work from home when we ask to do so (I have not been denied this ever) and organize ourselves to allow at least one member of
  • by picklepuss ( 749206 ) on Friday February 10, 2006 @03:41PM (#14689547) Homepage
    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.
  • I'm a cultivated pose!
  • by Kphrak ( 230261 ) on Friday February 10, 2006 @03:50PM (#14689610) Homepage

    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?

    • 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
  • My Review (Score:3, Interesting)

    by shokk ( 187512 ) <> on Friday February 10, 2006 @03:51PM (#14689620) Homepage Journal
    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 [].
  • by misleb ( 129952 ) on Friday February 10, 2006 @03:51PM (#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...

  • There's a Google video [] from 12/1/05 of Limoncelli presenting his system at a $GROUPNAME meeting here: gement+for+System+Administrators%22 [].

  • by capedgirardeau ( 531367 ) on Friday February 10, 2006 @04:24PM (#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.

    • 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.

      I beg to differ and I'd like to read up on the study that you're referring to. Link?

      I love my crowded desk with piles of stuff.
      • You did not try to organize yourself, organization is an attitude with a method.

        Boxing things in drawers it is not.

        If you are not willing to use organizational techniques, fair enough, but you are less productive than if you would use organizational and time keeping techniques that are tried and tested.
        • You did not try to organize yourself, organization is an attitude with a method.
          Boxing things in drawers it is not.

          Oh right, thanks for telling me what I did and what I did not try.
          Didn't even realize I had you sitting on my shoulder for the past years.

          If you are not willing to use organizational techniques, fair enough, but you are less productive than if you would use organizational and time keeping techniques that are tried and tested.

          It appears that you are unwilling or unable to accept that people are
  • Why Grumpy? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 3CRanch ( 804861 )
    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) l
    • Mod parent up, please.
    • a point of one of the reasons for the irritability and grumpiness

      Engage grumpy rant mode now!

      It's hard to manage the time for some tasks when they are dependant upon waiting for other employees to go to lunch or go home before you can work on the resources they use - then they wonder why I'm just sitting about reading slashdot at work at 7:30pm some day - it's because I'm waiting for them to go home before I can put in an hour and a halfs work on their PC.

      Some of the worst people to deal with are those user

  • 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.
  • Just this week, Josh McAdams released an audio interview [] with the author of this book, Tom Limoncelli
  • "Have you tried turning it off and turning it back on again?"
  • #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 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by harley_frog ( 650488 )
    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. ;)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    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
  • Here is a video I made [] that is a summary of 7-8 tips from the book. More info on []
  • by GuyverDH ( 232921 ) on Friday February 10, 2006 @08:22PM (#14691569)
    In my company, we have an assigned On-Call person, that rotates each week.

    Unfortunately, for me, it seems that each person who I've helped in the past, knows that I can help them now. Regardless of how many times I say, "So and so is on-call", I get the response, "I know this will only take you a second." and if I say "Take it to the on-call" again, they go right up the food chain, claiming how "uncooperative" I am.

    Anyway, I digress.

    How many sys admins, sys analysts, sys engineers (whatever title your company decides to throw at you this week), get to the point, that they just want to scream, "When do I get to work on my assigned work, instead of doing your work for you?".

    People will walk up all the time and lay the famous "Quick question" line, at which point I have to suppress the desire to pick up that spare Netra lying under my desk and beat them over the head with it. Sometimes, I surpise myself, and leave it there. Most of the time, I end up with it almost over the top of the desk, before they back off and leave. But seriously, I usually do end up answering their questions, and then try to get back into what I'm doing before the next interruption hits.

    The problem with this methodology, is that when the end of the week hits, and your boss asks you for a status update on the one project you were assigned to, and you give them this pole-axed look, claiming to have been inundated with walk-up traffic, your boss just says, "But I thought you weren't on call this week". To which, I really don't have a good reply - other than, "It was either help them, or have them go crying to you claiming I wasn't being helpfull".

    We have a help desk center, where everyone with an issue is supposed to call. For some reason, the S&D (no, this doesn't mean software and development, it's supposed to mean Support and Development) group seems to think they are above this work rule. No matter how many times we casually remind them, no matter how many carefully worded e-mails are sent out reminding them of this rule, it never stops the walk up traffic. It also doesn't seem to matter who's on call as long as the person asking the question knows that you can provide them with the answer, regardless of how many times you've given them the same answer. It's easier to ask again, than to strain your brain and remember it on your own.

    For those co-workers who actually do remember to follow the rules most of the time, and do remember the answers given for longer than a day or two, I am very courteous and helpfull. For the rest of the SOBs, I'm not as forgiving, and I usually end up reminding them, quite vocally, that I've answered their question (the exact same one) multiple times in the past, and why can't they get it through their duranium alloy skulls?

    Oh well - not sure where I'm going with this anymore, maybe I just felt the need to vent.

    If anyone has found a chuckle here, then great. If I've offended anyone, then f-off. =D
  • Time management is common sense. Nothing more.

    xx hours in each day
    xx tasks take up xx hours
    xx interruptions take away from xx tasks.

    This varies greatly. You may have a nice cush univeristy job where you can get away with BOFH tactics and generally get paid to do little to nothing.

    Or you could work for a web hosting company with 300 servers and one Admin. You know, the kinds of companies that give you an army of "rhce's" from india and call it help? In that case you don't need time management skills you need

  • delay any future requests from people that waste your time.
    I.E. panic requests "drop everything, I need this done now."
    When the truth is " I don't need it for a week & it isn't on the plan until either,
    but I want to go into the meeting today & report it done"

    Avoid meetings, any meeting over 30 minutes & 5 people to usually low value.

    Make sure your customer knows what they can do to make your life easier.
    I.E. like budget time

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling