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Time Management for System Administrators by Thomas A. Limoncelli

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Chapter 2. Focus Versus Interruptions

How many times have you told your boss that something will take a day of uninterrupted time, which means it will be done a month from now? SAs say this because their project work is constantly interrupted with requests from customers and management alike.

But when a system administrator says, "Users are always bothering me!" what he really means is, "I wish I could maintain focus on my tasks."

When we are focused and can work uninterrupted, we can get anything done. Focus is concentrated effort. When we are focused, we get our work done in less time, and our newly found free time can be used for more work or social activities. It's like eliminating unused peripherals from your laptop—the battery lasts longer and you can do more work or spend more time playing a game.

Interruptions are the natural enemy of focus. They steal time from us both directly and indirectly. The direct way they steal time is obvious: an interruption that stalls us for t minutes delays task completion by t minutes. That's easy. However, the indirect way that they steal time is more insidious. When you return from an interruption, you have to spend p minutes to figure out where you left off. If you were interrupted during the third step of a multipart process, do you return to step three or step four? Figuring out where you left off is extra work that steals time from the project. I confess that in my career as an SA the biggest technical mistakes I've made can be traced to ...

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