Time Management for System Administrators

Posted on June 29, 2006

I have a lot of books. Tamarah and I have one whole room of our house dubbed “the library” complete with 6 overflowing book cases… and I’ve still got 4 stacks of books 2 feet high in the den. The reality is I never actually “read” them, so much as I, in an SA like fashion, skim them quickly for what I need, read those sections that apply to my needs at the time, and then shelf them for later consumption. I can’t remember the last time I actually read a book from cover-to-cover.

Time Management for System Administrators looks like its going to break the cycle. This book is awesome. I bought it yesterday at Digital Guru (their last copy) on my way to the colo in San Jose. I picked up a cup of coffee (and almond bar, those things rule) en route and then sat in the parking lot of the colo reading the first chapter. This is the first book I’ve read that really understands SA’s. There is lots of encouragement, lots of reassurment, and lots of hand holding in a non-condicending way. It really is written by an SA for SA’s. I mean, just check out the first paragraph of the book:

Wait! Before we get started, let’s do something to make sure we actually finish.

Now is that geared for an SA or what. The second paragraph concludes by pointing out that you were more than likely interupted just trying to read that paragraph. And sections like “You can say ‘Go Away’ Without Being a Jerk” are tailor made for us SA’s.

I’m only on the 3rd chapter, but I’ve already learned and implemented a lot. I re-organized my office, dumped stacks of printouts and papers that I don’t actually need, made my workspace less visually distracting, and streamlined my “heaps o’ stuff”. I’ve started to think diffrently about how I prioritize things, how I free up my brain, and how I deal with users. Its awesome!

In life, there is a big diffrence between “knowing” something and “understanding” something. When you go on a diet, you already know what you need to do, but the light bulb doesn’t turn on in your head that hits your with the real need to do it, when you suddenly become aware in a personal way of exactly “why” instead of “how” things change. Its the same here. I’ve got so many projects running all the time that I’ve gone from spending 50% of my time planning, to 80, to 90, and now more than 95% of my time just figuring out what I need to do. Its all a jumble. I’m involved in so many things that I just spend all my time context switching and defering interupts that I don’t get anything done. And now I’m realizing that all that only leaves about 5% of my brain to actually accomplish anything, which turns out to be crap in the end anyway. Besides that, I’m always stressed because of what I’m not doing, scared shitless in some cases. Everyone who interfaces with you thinks they are the only one your dealing with. Its not uncommon to have 4 IM sessions running similtaniously, be tracking or talking in 4 or more IRC channels, and handling email while someone comes to ask you a question. Its insanity, but unless you allow yourself to see it that way, instead of “just how things are” you never get out of the rut and just wonder why you suck so much ass for not getting project X done.

So, needless to say, I’m hooked on this book. Everyone thats read it highly recommends it, and I’m not enthusiastically putting my vote behind it as well. With any luck we might see things actually get done around cuddletech in the future! (Not to mention, E.org, Genunix.org, and more posts to SunHelp.org.)

If your stressed, don’t know what your supposed to be doing but know its looming over you, or just feel burdened, BUY THIS BOOK!

UPDATE: I looked in on BayLISA just now (meeting at Yahoo! tonight btw) and notice that Tom (author of ‘Time Management’) spoke to the group not long ago. Visit Google Video to watch his presentation and get a good primer to his techniques. Make sure you activate your interuption shield before viewing. 😉