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Time Management for System Administrators: Stop Working Late and Start Working Smart

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Time is a precious commodity, especially if you're a system administrator. No other job pulls people in so many directions at once. Users interrupt you constantly with requests, preventing you from getting anything done. Your managers want you to get long-term projects done but flood you with reques ...

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228 pages, Paperback

Published December 13, 2005

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Thomas A. Limoncelli

7 books34 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 80 reviews
Profile Image for Tessa.
20 reviews2 followers
March 24, 2009
This is one of the first books I put on my SafariBooksOnline account back in 2006.

I'm known as a bit of a "GTD fanatic". Not because I'm so organized and methodical, but rather because I'm a mess and always looking for better ways to contain the disarray. I must read 2 or 3 books a year (even after this book) regarding organization and time management but, this is the one and only book I keep coming back to that has methods that work.. for me.

I loved the concepts and overall organization strategies of David Alan's Getting Things Done system, however, from the first time I read it and even now when I occasionally return to it, there's a voice in the back of my head that constantly says tings like "well yeah, if I were an executive with a whole team underneath me... i could really implement some of these things at a deeper/broader level too".

I'm not a System Admin, but some aspects of programming and web development are kind of similar. I do ton of GTD productivity stuff already, using basic file systems, tickler calendar/file, I limit my "distraction time" with set times to check emails and voice mail but often find that large chunks of my projects are basically "distraction driven". It's my job to field interruptions as they often turn into billable hours, keep the project moving forward and keep clients happy and coming back. Yet, I still need to handle all my "routine" tasks and keep on top of scheduled work.

If any of the above matches your situation, no minions below you, must deal with distractions and still push through scheduled and routine work, then this is a great book for you, I *believe* you can even strip out the technical/system admin angle and apply these concepts to yourself even if you're not in a web or IT based line of work.

bonus: If you are slightly techie/geeky with a basic, even light programming background* you'll find Thomas's "cookbook" chapters particularly interesting and valuable for writing little scripts that can show you how to automate more rudimentary tasks and inspire you to think of more things you can automate in your day to day and often scheduled stuff!

(* I found his Perl examples VERY easy to follow and port over to PHP, Python & even ActionScript just fine)
13 reviews5 followers
January 20, 2020
This is an amazing and super practical book.

It's still very relevant (even more) today and applicable to all sorts of people working in software, not just sysadmins - Developers, SREs, Tech Leads, and Engineering Managers will all benefit from reading this concise treatment of various aspects of time management at work; and you will learn how to apply it to your personal stuff too.

The Cycle system is pretty useful and even if you don't apply it fully and invent your own system (as I did) you can adopt a lot of things and tips.

Everybody who's day-to-day job has something with delivering software should read this!
Profile Image for Jurvis.
45 reviews21 followers
March 3, 2008
My resolution this year was to get better organized and make more effective use of my time (aka getting better at life). This book was chock full of common sense for this goal. He touched on many habits I currently have, connecting them with the reason I'd developed them and placed them in a larger framework for being a better sysadmin. He also augmented the stereotypical, "get a planner and use it" advice with many tasks specific to my profession (maintaining documentation, managing ticket queues, sifting through email) . While he makes the dubious claim that the time demands on system administrators are so different that they need their own book, I'll admit it was nice to read about something tailored 100% to me. That does not mean that the techniques in the book aren't useful for almost everyone. I would be hard pressed to think of many knowledge workers that couldn't use a wiki and ticket system to streamline their operations (seriously, how did I get anything done before I had RT?!?!) I'll definitely keep this in my knapsack for frequent rereading and maybe try to foist it on a couple other guys that work for me.
Profile Image for Dave.
52 reviews15 followers
June 1, 2016
There's definitely a big chunk of this which is dated, but I really liked the core time management part ("The Cycle").

The dated part includes such nuggets as the fact that there is a service called "Netflix" which can send me DVDs by post, and an introduction to the strange and foreign concept of the "wiki". :)

The real core of the book is up to chapter 8, with the first 4 acting as a kind of gentle intro. 9-13 I mostly skipped, finding them pretty outdated or basic.

Lastly, I'm a programmer rather than a sysadmin, but I found this very relevant.
Profile Image for Brad.
36 reviews
February 1, 2016
Great ideas in this book. Now comes the hard part: implementation (though I've already seen a positive influence in my work life just through an initial reading). I'm sure I'll be reviewing this book frequently.

Better than GTD; I've tried that system for years, but it's overly complex and not really as flexible as it purports to be.
Profile Image for Vitaly.
12 reviews2 followers
April 11, 2011
Это была моя первая книга по тайм-менеджменту вообще. Она открыла мне глаза, что время можно организовывать и дала толчок на развитие.
Книга достаточно полезная, реально помогла разгрести и своё время и всего отдела. Много полезных советов и методов.
Profile Image for William.
75 reviews1 follower
May 14, 2019
An excellent take on time management with the very specific use cases that render the arguments palatable to the type of character who finds himself in IT operations. I should have read this in 2006. I especially enjoyed the epilogue.

Two quibbles. Firstly, laundry and cleaning aren’t time wasters, but necessities, like changing the backup tape. Those tasks can be delegated, but you should understand that is what is being done—do not just assume that Someone Else will clean up your mess. His suggestion of a by-the-pound cleaner is a good one. Secondly, the example Cycle routine described somewhat elides administrative overhead such as commuting, filling out the timesheets, waiting, and running through the Cycle; and offers only a brief glimpse at feedback between planned time and actual task time. But it is, after all, the foundation for a system of continual improvement.
Profile Image for Denis Vasilev.
632 reviews93 followers
July 9, 2018
Тайм менджмент 0.5. С юмором и по делу, но ничего нового, если видели хотя бы пару книг по теме.
Profile Image for Ana Rute.
1 review1 follower
March 13, 2023
The to-do method (The Cycle) shared in the book really helped me to remove the feeling of being always overload I had for being in a position with lots of firefighting and support requests. I definitely recommend it if you are in this type of position or don't have a formal system (like scrum) to organize your daily tasks.
January 9, 2017
Gera knyga apie laiko valdymą. Tinka nebūtinai sistemų administratoriams, tačiau ir bet kam, kieno darbe dažni pertraukimai ir tiems, kurie turi daug planų, siekių gynime, bet nepavysta visko suspėti. "Jei manai, jog neturi laiko perskaityti šios knygos, reiškia ši knyga yra tau". Knyga nedidelės apimties, joje aprašoma autoriaus siūloma laiko valdymo metodika, patarimai kaip taikant ją siekti gyvenimo tikslų ir pan.
Profile Image for Rose Lerner.
Author 20 books554 followers
November 25, 2011
This book is changing my life as we speak. I'm not a system administrator but I think the advice is great for anyone who does self-directed work (for me, writing). It's very straightforward, practical advice. I highly, highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Stephen.
322 reviews
January 26, 2021
As a department head, I've wound up implementing a hybrid model for how I run things. I've adapted several things from Gino Wickman's Traction for running meetings, scoping projects, and defining metrics, but in terms of other day-to-day stuff I've borrowed from Thomas Limoncelli's Time Management for System Administrators.

The embarrassing thing is I first started reading this book at my last job (circa 2013) because of the issues that I had with the day-to-day headaches and interruption that technologists like my self deal with daily being in a support role, while also trying to get projects done. I never finished it because I wasn't following the advice. Jumping forward to 2021, yes, the book is a bit dated but the lessons and device are still relevant. I've since tackled my Ever-Growing To-Do List of Doom. This is where I feel Traction can fail with its Issues list and the I/D/S process as it pertains to System Administrators and those in support roles. The Cycle process does make sense and I've since adopted it. Obviously, in my line of work you need an issue tracking system, and I've used one for years, but it does no good if you can't prioritize.

The book isn't life changing, but it makes good points. Substitute UseNet for Facebook or PDAs for smart phones, and so on, it's certainly relevant. It leans a little heavy towards your Unix/Linux user, but that's O'Reilly publishing for you. No matter what type of system administrator you are the advice is valid. The hard part is pulling the trigger and following the advice. However, I can say that by following the advice, I've been able to finish the book (even during lunches at my desk as work). And I'm honestly a lot happier at work as a result.
3 reviews
April 8, 2021
This book is old, and it shows. From PDAs to explaining Wikis like they are a new concept, to SVN and RCS. However, the system is great and Thomas outlines a system useful to me.

I decided to read this book instead of re-reading GTD and I don't regret it. GTD is fantastic and the basis of my system, but this book was a much quicker review of a similar (or GTD-compatible in my opinion) system with discussions of things directly related to my career path.

Someone in another review mentioned a crude joke in the book. The joke I thought would fit under this category is a joke about dating a porn star, unless I missed something else. The book would be better without it.
Profile Image for Marc Perry.
Author 5 books6 followers
September 2, 2017
In my opinion, this is truly an excellent book whose title happens to sound a little bit ho-hum. In terms of productivity pr0n (is that how it's spelled, with the R and the O swapped, and replacing the O with a zero?) I found this book more useful, in a practical sense than the holy trinity of productivity books: "Getting Things Done", "Eat That Frog", and "The Now Habit." This has been my bible for the past two years. If you struggle with prioritization and procrastination, I urge you to read this book; I predict that you won't regret it.

You mileage may vary.
Profile Image for Jen.
683 reviews11 followers
September 17, 2017
My job has a lot of "OMG DO THIS NAOW!!1!" things that come up. I also have many meetings. And on top of all that, I need to work towards long-term projects. While I'm not a true Sys Admin and so didn't get a lot out of the very last chapter of the book, there's still a great deal of good information. Many of the concepts are the same as the GTD school of time management, but it includes building time into your day for interruptions.

Worth reading.
September 25, 2021
There is only one book on my required reading list for IT Professionals and this is it. I have been a business owner and struggled with time management in IT for years. After reading several other books and complaining about how none of them quite solved the problems for geeks, a mentor of mine handed me this book. I could never thank him enough for the impact this book had on my life ten years ago. If you gained 10% of the benefits that I experienced, this book would pay for itself in a month.
Profile Image for Arian Muharremi.
39 reviews1 follower
December 12, 2017
This book has some interesting ideas. Make sure to write down what you find useful for your situation. As you move through the positions and responsibilities, you may need to re-read the book.

I recommend it not only to SAs but to anyone who has do work with clients (users). It is intended for SAs but some lessons can be applied in different fields as well.
Profile Image for Guðmundur.
167 reviews
April 12, 2019
This book is outdated...it is Outdated.... it really is outdated.

So the first half is pretty fine. Gives an exmple of clever methods to practice to become more focused with your work. The latter half is only relevant for its ideas as it is spending time on systems and platforms that are not that common anymore.

Liked the style and light attitude the author had.
1 review
September 5, 2017
Fantastic book, should be standard content for any newer engineer, and a good refresher for seasoned one. Needs a new revision perhaps as PDAs have been very much replaced, and some of the references to websites/applications are out of date.
46 reviews
August 15, 2019
Though the title sounds like a gimmick, this actually a very insightful and well thought-out book. Limoncelli's attitude (which I agree with) is that a sysadmin should be turning chaos into routine, and routine into automation.
Profile Image for Jing Fu.
21 reviews1 follower
July 1, 2020
I don't think I've got a ton from this book. My expectation was high, but the framework in the book is quite simplistic, and the tools used in this book is severely outdated thus not super applicable.
Profile Image for Vasil Kolev.
1,043 reviews163 followers
July 18, 2021
I've had the idea to read this in the last few years, and, of course, didn't have the time to.

This is a great book, and if I manage to use even a small bit of it, it'd be helpful. I'll see if I can make the people around me read it, so they'd have more time to take on tasks I can't finish :)
Profile Image for Ar Patel.
1 review1 follower
December 10, 2022
A must have for system administrators. This book nearly defines how a sysadmin can handle the chaotic life style of an IT PROFESSIONAL. It has a practical approach with real tools. It definitely improved my approach to work and will save me time and headache. Will read again.
Profile Image for Jackie.
34 reviews
December 18, 2022
Overall a good book breaking down a system for time management for an engineer. It gives real solutions to breaking your schedule up and navigating changing priorities. Overall I would recommend this to anyone, most of the book is highlighted.
Profile Image for Daniel.
352 reviews
July 2, 2018
Lots of good ideas for time management for IT people. One I should likely reread.
Profile Image for Ivan.
4 reviews
December 6, 2018
Although some chapters may seem a bit outdated it is quite decent book and philosophies can be applied today as well. Just replace outdated things with _new_thing_here_.
Profile Image for Joel.
3 reviews1 follower
January 21, 2019
A lot of the commentary and anecdotes in this book have not aged well, but the core of the book provides a decent primer and principles for GTD using "The Cycle".
Displaying 1 - 30 of 80 reviews

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