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Review: Time Management for System Administrators

Continuing along my IT operations book kick, I recently picked up Time Management for System Administrators by Tom Limoncelli on SysAdmin Appreciation Day 2014. Considering I continue to struggle with managing my own time at work every day while not dropping numerous proverbial balls, I thought it would be a good book to dive into.

After reading the book over the past week I have come to two conclusions about every time management book:

  1. Every modern way of managing your time comes back to David Allen’s Getting Things Done. When you peel everything away, this seems to be the rock upon which all modern ways of managing time is built.
  2. The best books about managing time take the general ideas from Getting Things Done (GTD) and then narrows it down to what matters for that segment of the population (e.g. system administrators) and adds some additional items that are not included within the larger, generalized GTD way of doing things.

With those two things in mind, I cannot help but recommend this book to any person who works even slightly within IT operations on any level. Not only does it take GTD and focus on how the general principles can help system administrators (even if Tom does not lay out the book that way), it adds all of the things that a system administrator needs to think about in order to free up time to get actual work done.

Instead of rehashing the book, I’m going to lay out some changes I am going to make in order to take some of the lessons from the book and apply them to myself.

  • I’m taking the time to really keep track of my tasks, even if it will take some time to break the habit. If something is worth doing, it is worth tossing into OmniFocus and then taking care to make sure I apply a due date to it so that I have it in front of me. The Forecast view within OmniFocus is where I spend most of my time since it combines the tasks I need to do with the calendar events I have for the day. I’ll adjust things in the future (and I will blog about what I am now doing), but just moving back into a more robust task management application is a big step in some sort of direction.
  • Usually infrastructure projects which eliminate work for myself and others takes a backseat to other work that needs to be done, but that is going to change. Being able to get automated systems setup for password management and account creation will free up our current staff to better use their time on things which benefit the entire campus. I will also be looking into a payment gateway to allow students to purchase print credit on their own, but there are other issues (like refunds) attached to that plan.
  • I am planning on spending some time digging into Ruby or Python as an automation language, and not as a web development language as I had in the past (Ruby on Rails).
  • I will have weekly meetings regularly and scheduled for regular times so that I don’t have to think about when they are going to happen or worry about setting up a mutually beneficial time for all of the parties involved. Either they can make it, or they can’t and we wait until the next week.

There will probably be more, and I’ll outline some in greater detail in the future (hopefully), but they also all seem relatively common sense. I believe that is the reason they will make the largest difference.

The important part right now is to make some changes and stick with them. Progress is the name of the game, not perfection.

So, head out and grab the book and read it for yourself. I have a paper copy on order already so that I have it at my desk whenever I need a little extra help.