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August 2006 Archives

Tie your shoes faster

Tie your shoes faster, so you have more time to sysadmin:
Rocketboom's interview with Sherng-Lee Huang
While that is a silly example, there are a lot of quick tips that can really speed your workflow. For example, the majority of time spent emptying a trash can is often getting the new trash can liner. If you store your trash can liners near the garbage can, or set up a small cache, the total time is reduced. In fact, why not put 5-6 liners at the bottom of the can (under the liner currently being used). (My favorite "bash" prompt is export PS1="\h:\w \u\$ "

At a previous company I had to change backup tapes every morning. The full tapes had to be manually labeled and I was always searching for a pen. My boss had the brilliant idea to get 6 pen holders (also known as "coffee mugs"), fill each with a dozen pens, and place them at strategic places around the computer room. Now we spent less time looking for a pen, more time doing our work. While he was at it, he put a pad of paper in each of those 6 places so that we always had something to write on.

What about keeping three Xterm (shell) windows on your three most important servers so you don't have to keep SSHing into them? Why not have those three windows already logged in as "root" so you are ready to do whatever administrative task comes up? What about setting the prompt of your shell to indicate the hostname and user so that you don't type commands on the wrong host, or forget when you are "root".

What about using a 2-port KVM switch (now less than $30) rather than constantly plugging and unplugging cables? (Saves wear-and-tear on the cables and your fingers too) Rather than lugging that power adaptor for your laptop all the time, why not have one permanently at your desk at work, one at home, and one in your car? On a whiteboard near your desk (or a big sheet of paper) write a quick diagram of your network, or a table of which IP subnets are where, or a table showing listing which server is currently qa, beta, and production (since they keep switching every time a new release comes out).

While these tips save minutes rather than days, they reduce the amount of frustration in our workflows. Sometimes reducing frustration is like a big gift, or lifting a weight off our shoulders. How much better are we at the rest of our job if the little annoyances have been removed?

Simple things should be simple. Not annoying.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Time Management