Time Management for System Administrators

Author: Thomas A. Limoncelli

ISBN: 0596007833

Publisher: O'Reilly & Associates

Reviewed by: Dean Wilson

"What do you think of the Getting Things Done book?"
"I'll worry about time management when a tech publisher has a book on it."
"Have you seen Time Management for System Administrators?"
Queue the sound of Amazon.co.uk being loading in FireFox

I'm happiest when I'm bouncing between lots of different tasks - whether they're all independent or part of a larger project. This is great in an emergency or when I'm working in a small team with a decent workload but not so good when it comes to simultaneously juggling small, quick turn around requests with longer, concentration demanding projects. I need a certain amount of time to pick up where I was - not just to ensure I don't skip a step or make a mistake. Time Management for System Administrators understands why many sysadmins suffer from this and how to remedy (no pun intended) it and some related topics.

The book can be broken up in to three parts, the first, consisting of chapters 1-3, introduces the why of time management, how interruptions play merry hell with our workload and why we devise and stick to routines.

The second chunk of the book, chapters 4-8, explains "The Cycle System" (the capital letters just feel right). This is the authors technique for balancing and controlling your tasks, calendar, priorities and progressing towards your life goals; the last of these is less hokey than it sounds. These chapters were the most interesting part of the book for me and include the topics I'm most likely to dip back in to as I integrate sections of it with my own daily routines.

The closing chapters are a grab-bag of goodies, they cover stress and email management - which may be closely related, eliminating time wasters (unfortunately not a guide to 'removing' your less able co-workers) and the benefits of documentation and automation. This selection of material was the least interesting to me, not just because I'm familiar with the subjects but because they felt a little bolted on. As an example, the sections on using make and processing shell arguments in the automation chapter go on too long in an otherwise technology agnostic book.

Although the title mentions System Administrators there is a lot of useful information in here for other technical staff, developers and QA workers should be able to take a lot away from the book. I found the authors style to be easy going (although I'm not too keen on teaching through repetition in books - if I'm not sure of something I'll reread the paragraph) and the advice seems to make sense. I'm adopting some of the techniques from the book and I'll have to see how they hold up in the field. But that's my part of the deal.

Score: 7/10 - contains some useful techniques, pointers and explanations on why our role has different requirements when it comes to longer term project work and the daily tasks list.