Spending 10 minutes to save 1

By Thomas A. Limoncelli
June 15, 2009

I've been looking for simple things I can do make my life more convenient. By "simple" I mean they have to take less than 10 minutes to accomplish. I'll gladly trade 10 minutes to solve 1 minute of frustration (or add 1 minute of convenience) especially if that frustration is something that would repeat time and time again.

Today I spent 10 minutes making sure that by each printer at work (well, each printer that I use) there is a fully-stocked stapler and tape dispenser. As a system administrator I tend to print rarely ("I'm quite handy with a PDF viewer") but when I do print it seems like I can only find tape when I need staples or staples when I need tape. The 10 minutes I invested will reduce my frustration over the next year by... well... is there a unit by which we measure frustration? Yeah, that.

Deploying tape and staple dispensers may be the least technical tip you've read on an O'Reilly blog. Alas, anything that reduces frustration is worth sharing.

Here are some more examples:

1. My first job out of college as a system administrator one of my jobs was to go around to 3 different tape drives and change the tapes. By each of them I put a pencil holder and a handful of pens. At the time it felt wasteful... a dozen or more pens where one would do? This reduced the amount of frustration (and mislabeled tapes) by an order of magnitude. Worth thousands of pens.

2. Recently I wrote a simple shell script to replace a procedure that was simple but error prone. Sure, any sysadmin should be able to do the procedure after a few minutes of thinking, but the less brain power I have to use on this task the more I have left for other work.

3. Some files I need to edit often are more than 7 directory levels deep in a source code repository. I made shell aliases for this directories. File name completion is nice, but this is much less frustrating.

Again, none of these are big technical break-throughs but they all relieve a little frustration in our my.


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