Results tagged “time management”

11/11 is the date that looks most like corduroy and 11/11/11 makes it especially special!

Wear them 'cords with pride!

Sincerely, Tom

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Time Management

Psst... I'm working on a new site. I'm taking all my time management videos, chopping them into bite-sized, topic-specific, stories, and putting them on a new web site. I only have a few videos up so far, but I'd like to start getting feedback (we have 40+ videos on their way).  What do you think?

Check it out: (If that doesn't work, try

Thanks to Pam Howell for being camera person, editor, and uploader, and muse for this project!

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Time Management

Mark Dennehy wrote and article called, "Joel Spolsky, Snake-Oil Salesman" in response to Joel's article, "Capstone projects and time management".

(I'll give you all some time to read the articles... done yet?)

I want to agree and disagree with something Mark wrote (and a big "P.S." at the end about something he said about my time management book).

Mark wrote:
Undergraduate courses in CS and CEng are not there to teach industrial tools, but basic principles

I agree... but please don't go too far. The use of industrial tools, when used, should be as a demonstration of the principles being taught, not to gain some kind of certification that they know how to use the tool. Eliminating such tools would be going too far. We all know there are students that are "visual learners", "audio learners" and "kinesthetic" learners. Using the tools in a real environment is where the kinesthetic learners will benefit.

When I took my undergraduate class on software engineering methodology I felt it was useless because I couldn't see the point of most of what I was being taught. Most of my programming had been done solo or on a small team. I could not take seriously the problems that were being "fixed" by the software methodologies discussed in our lectures. "Code size estimation? Bah! Impossible, so why even try!" What would have solved this problem? To put me in an environment where we had a large enough team that things started to break down and we needed GIT, Bugzilla, and Tinderbox.

However, that was 1987-1991. Back then basic tools like source code control, bug tracking, and automated testing were uncommon. Today's students get more exposure to those things via exposure to Open Source projects than I got in my entire college career.

What about the students that aren't exposed to how open source projects work? They get no exposure. They don't get taught these principles. My guess is that these students are the majority of college students today. The superstars get exposure but not everyone is a superstar. In fact, by definition most students are not.

Obviously first-semester students should focus on getting comfortable with smaller issues like text editors, files, and getting their first programs to work at al. However, after someone gets some exposure, they should hand their homework in via passing a GIT or Subversion URL to the instructor. Peers should test each other's code and submit bug reports, and be graded by whether they include reproducible test cases or not. Unit-tests and system-tests, in a simple automated test framework ("Makefiles" are sufficient) should be part of the assignment.


P.S. And since you mentioned TM4SA...
At least when Limoncelli wrote Time Management for Systems Administrators he was putting forward a set of skills that had proven to work for him in the field, and he was trying to pass on lessons learnt the hard way.

I made a conscious decision to write what worked for me and people near me rather than write a book about the theory of time management and productivity. Before writing the book I did some research and found that people do not tolerate more than a certain amount of theory in self-help books. A little bit is motivational, too much is a turn-off. On the other hand, research finds that geeks tend to be motivated by knowing how the internals of something work. That's an argument for including more theory. I had to strike a balance.

I don't recommend Time Management for System Administrators (TM4SA) as a textbook. It is a self-help book. People will only benefit from a self-help book if they feel they have a problem. The 80% of your class that doesn't feel they have a problem would hate the professor for making them read it. Oddly enough I had terrible time management skills when I was in college. My low GPA is proof! If only I had TM4SA then! (Go figure out that time paradox!)

On the other hand, I do promote The Practice of System and Network Administration as a text book. It was written with colleges classes in mind (senior undergraduate and masters programs). As proof, each chapter ends with questions, something one generally finds in text books. The questions are designed to help the student review the material with a few "soul searching" questions mixed in here and there. The latter are potentially good term-paper ideas.

Usenix interviewed me about my Time Management tutorial at the upcoming LISA 2009 conference. It isn't too late to sign up for this class!

Interview with Thomas Limoncelli on TM4SA at LISA2009

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in ConferencesTime Management

As a sysadmin at an international company I find myself doing more and more timezone conversions, and with a high frequency of errors. Thus, I rely on this site to make my life easier. Not only do they provide a great free service, but their web pages are bookmark-able in ways that let me use and re-use their stuff.

The site has many useful date and timezone calculations. If you want to know the time in New York City, Cambodia, or any other place you have (or haven't) hard of, they can do the calculation. You can even create URLs that display the current (or a particular) time for your favorite locations. They have calculators that do frequent but error-prone lookups that go beyond simple timezone calculations. How many days between today and Sunday, June 6, 2010? When is Easter Sunday in the US next year? When did I turn 1 million seconds old? Countdown clocks, eclipes, and so on are also available. It seems like they add new features every month.

Suppose you have offices in New York, London, and Shenzhen. You can create a URL that shows the current time at those offices. Bookmark it. Now if you need to make a phone call, check the bookmark before you dial. Simple.

Bookmarking these three URLs will save countless hours and prevent tons of embarrassing mistakes. (In these examples we'll pretend you have offices in San Francisco, New York, Dublin, Hyderabad, Beijing, Melbourne.)

  • Personal World Clock: This URL shows the current time at all six locations. Since it always shows the current time, this is useful for deciding whether or not it is apropriate to call someone in another office. I'm sure you can think of many other uses for this page. The URL encodes the list of locations. You can list dozens and dozens of locations so don't be afraid to list ever darn office in your company. Put the link on a highly visible place (like your internal intranet web site) so others can benefit. Here's a tip: Sort the countries west to east so the display is more logically ordered.
  • Meeting Planner: Suppose you need to set up a meeting. Click on this URL. The colors indicate when people might be sleeping or awake (Mnemonic: "red is bad") (again, the locations are sorted west to east). People in New York, Dublin and Hyderabad need a meeting? Move your mouse down to highly potential meeting times and look for where all the locations involved are "green." The optimal time for someone may be "tomorrow" for someone else, thus day of the week is included. Unsure when Daylight Saving Time kicks in for Dublin versus the US? Never fear. knows. Adjust the URL to the exact date and your timezone worries are over. This planner accepts only 6 locations therefore you might want to provide links on your internal web site that are appropriate for each division.
  • Friday, July 31, 2009 at 9:00:00 AM (NEW YORK TIME): Are your fingers getting tired listing the time and date for a meeting followed by conversions for all the timezones involved? Not only am I tired of this, but I tend to accidentally introduce typos or miscalculations when I try. Now I list only one time but create a link to a URL like this one that does the conversion for me. The link is easy to generate: it's taken from the meeting planner page. Some companies have a policy of only listing date/times in the timezone of their HQ. Linking to this URL makes it easier for everyone. (If a meeting has participants from 1 or 2 timezones I list both times right in the email. However, linking to a URL like this is even better).

For all of these I use the same list of locations consistently. It is the locations of the people I most frequently deal with. That way they get used to seeing the same set of countries. It encourages people to use the same list every time too.

Lastly, using a gobal calendaring system like Oracle Calendar, Microsoft Exchange, Google Apps and so on also reduces the need for people to manually convert timezones. However, even with these tools, we often want to list times and dates in emails or on web pages. is extremely useful in these cases. Using it makes us more efficient because it saves us time and prevent errors. When we place URLs like the ones above on our intranet homepage or use them in emails the use tends to spread virally (in the good sense of the word) and we create an multiplier effect improving efficiency throughout our organization.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Time Management

Jim Munroe teaches Time Management in grassroots activism. He's turned his talk into an 8-minute Flash animation. The points he makes are excellent. Check it out.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Time Management

GTD+The Cycle

Andrew Hyatt's blog mentions his merger of TM4SA's "The Cycle" with the GTD methodology.

I solved this problem by using the agenda, and scheduling my next actions that I wanted to work on for the current day. I would then see a list of the next actions I had to accomplish that day. If I didn't get them done that day, the next day I'd move them up a day, to the current day. It ended up being a daily-planner-like system a lot like Tom Limoncelli recommends in Time Management for System Administrators. But with next actions..
Sounds great, Andrew!

I like GTD but don't think it is optimal for busy system administrators or software engineers. His addition to The Cycle is a great variation on the theme. That's how I hoped The Cycle would be used: a good system that people could adopt then customize for their own use.

Read the complete blog post here.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Time Management

A time management problem that people often ask me about is how to get started on a new big tasks (NBT). With a heavy number of interruptions, meetings, and so on it can be easy to get distracted and never actually start that important NBT. Starting a NBT is also a bit intimidating; it's emotionally easier to continue with checking email, answering tickets, and (this is the big one) work on less important, but easier, tasks.

When I need to start a new big task I hide. I really do. I find a small conference room, hide, and work for an hour disconnected from the internet. I'm not ashamed to admit this. Hiding really works.

I'm not completely hidden. I don't cover the windows. People can find me. My immediate coworkers know where I am.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Time Management