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The time management book that a sysadmin would actually read.
on December 3, 2005
To save everyone the trouble, I'll make the obvious joke: "I bought a book on time management, but I haven't had time to read it..."
Tom Limoncelli knows this about you. He knows a lot about you. He's encountered, and found solutions for, just about every one of the paradoxes, dilemmas, Catch-22s, and neverending Sisyphean ordeals that comprise the day-to-day challenge of being a professional system administrator. He wrote (with Christine Hogan) The Practice of System and Network Administration, which presents a thorough and practical body of knowledge for IT professionals: it describes all the things you need to do to build and run a manageable infrastructure. Now he's written an equally practical book on how to actually get those things done, and he wrote it in a way that makes it palatable for system administrators -- a famously cynical bunch when it comes to books about personal productivity. And there's a lot to be cynical about...
Here's how "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People", by Stephen Covey, begins:
In more than 25 years of working with people in business,
university, and marriage and family settings, I have come in
contact with many individuals who have achieved an incredible
degree of outward success, but have found themselves struggling
with an inner hunger, a deep need for personal congruency and
effectiveness and for healthy, growing relationships with other
Deep need for personal congruency? The only deep need I feel at the moment involves my gag reflex, and not in a good way.
In comparison, here's how Tom begins:
Wait! Before we get started, let's do something to make sure we
actually finish. I realize that as a system administrator, you
are flooded with constant interruptions. The phone rings, a
customer stops by with questions, your email reader beeps with
the arrival of a new message, and someone on Instant Messenger
is trying to raise your attention. Heck, I bet someone's
interrupted you while reading this paragraph. I'm not going to
cover how to deal with interruptions until the next chapter, and
I hope you don't take offense, but at this rate, I'm worried you
won't get that far. To mitigate this problem I'm going to share
a tip from Chapter 2, which, if you implement, will shield you
from interruptions between now and when we can deal with the
subject of interruptions properly.
This book is for system administrators.
Much of the geek community has embraced David Allen's Getting Things Done as a purely pragmatic way to, well, get things done, and Tom's book complements GTD in two ways. First, Tom describes his own personal system in the space of a couple of chapters, for those who aren't interested in drinking the GTD Kool-Aid but still need to start using a system. Second, Time Management for System Administrators is totally system-agnostic -- whether you use a PDA or index cards, just about every chapter of the book will amplify the effectiveness of your existing system. He also tells you how to get into Disneyland and ride all the rides without waiting in line, and how to minimize the time you spend walking around the video store looking for something to rent.
Anyway, I need to cut this short; I'm supposed to be packing for a trip to a weeklong conference, and my girlfriend just called to remind me that we were supposed to see a movie tonight, and -- well, you know.
Incidentally, anyone who runs computers for a living should also own, read, and re-read The Practice of System and Network Administration. Buy it now if you haven't already. Also buy it for your staff, your peers, and your boss. If you don't have time to do that now, add it to your to-do list. You do have a to-do list, don't you?