Here are a few common-sense tips for making life behind the IT desk a little better.
There's self-service and there's self-efficiency, and you know Mr. Roboto is all about efficiency. I often achieve efficiency through automation provided by a tool I've developed or something I've come across.
Let's deviate slightly this month and look at efficient work habits. If you don't work efficiently, any other recommendations won't amount to much. Most of these suggestions are basic common sense, and perhaps there are some you've heard before. But hey, a little reinforcement never hurts.
Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan
The most important thing you can do to maximize personal efficiency is to plan your day and stick to it. Make lists of tasks you'll accomplish daily, weekly, monthly or even quarterly. That's not rocket science, but the challenge is sticking to your list. There's a longstanding belief that to maintain your grocery budget, stick to only buying items on your shopping list. Work is no different. If you want to keep to your time budget, stick to your list. Emergencies will invariably arise, but when they do you have to revise your work plan.
Try to avoid what I call "drive-by tech support." You should have a process for help-desk or end-user tech support. Don't give your end users an opportunity to circumvent it by stopping by your desk or grabbing you as you walk by theirs. In the long run, everyone comes out ahead if you stick to your plans and processes.
Eat Your Lunch
I know from personal experience how easy it is to work through lunch. Your daily work plan has to include a lunch break, which ideally gets you out of the office or at least away from your desk. Work will never stop, but you can't maintain peak efficiency without refueling both nutritionally and mentally. If you can fit in some exercise, that's even better. Avoid shoptalk if you eat lunch with coworkers. The goal is to set work aside for a short period of time. If you have issues to discuss, work them into your plan for the rest of the day.
You can't be efficient if you don't know what's happening in your industry and IT in general. Budget at least an hour each week to read trade journals, blogs or newsletters. Seek out products or services that can make you more efficient or help your company reduce costs. Ideally, you should also budget training time for classes or conferences, anything from full-blown, instructor-led training to online classes to self-paced training.
Close Your E-Mail
One simple task that can go a long way toward helping you achieve efficiency is to close your e-mail client. Look at it a few scheduled times a day. You must have processes in place for critical notifications through a pager or cell phone. E-mail is an easy distraction that can knock you off of your plan. The more you can eliminate distractions, the more efficient you'll become. This is an effective time-management tip for busy executives and there's no reason you can't use it as well. And don't be afraid to let a phone call go to voicemail, but make sure you do schedule time to answer voicemail, as well as e-mail.
Finally, keep your work areas clean and organized. There's certainly a small subset of admins who have cluttered desks, yet they know exactly where everything is. They're the exceptions. The cleaner your desk, the easier it is to find something. Organizing your workspace also helps organize your mind. The more organized and clutter-free your mind, the more efficient you will become.
Let us know what other tips you have to achieve self-efficiency.
Jeffery Hicks is a Microsoft MVP in Windows PowerShell, Microsoft Certified Trainer and an IT veteran with over 20 years of experience, much of it spent as an IT consultant specializing in Microsoft server technologies with an emphasis in automation and efficiency. He works today as an independent author, trainer and consultant. Jeff writes the popular Prof. PowerShell column for MPCMag.com and is a regular contributor to the Petri IT Knowledgebase and 4SysOps. If he isn't writing, then he's most likely recording training videos for companies like TrainSignal or hanging out in the forums at PowerShell.org.
Jeff's latest books are Learn PowerShell 3 in a Month of Lunches, Learn PowerShell Toolmaking in a Month of Lunches and PowerShell in Depth: An Administrators Guide.
You can keep up with Jeff at his blog http://jdhitsolutions.com/blog, on Twitter at twitter.com/jeffhicks and on Google Plus (http:/gplus.to/JeffHicks)