Book Review: Time Management for System Administrators by Thomas A. Limoncelli

Time Management for System Administrators
By Thomas A. Limoncelli
Reviewed by Martin Gehrke,
System and Network Administrators of Pittsburgh

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.

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