The two words an IT admin should *never* utter…

It’s mid-afternoon. The phone is silent. The job queue is pretty empty. You’ve done the project work you wanted to get done for today.

“Jeez it’s quiet!”

Don’t ever…EVER…say this. All you are doing is risking Murphy’s Law to come along and whack you up the back of the head with an unexpected hardware failure, or a VIP who’s managed to delete all their important data.

You’ve come in to work. You’ve looked at your calendar for the day. You’ve checked your queue and there’s nothing new for you to look at. Your first meeting isn’t for an hour.

“Damn I’m bored…”

Again – don’t EVER say this. You cannot possibly be bored with all the things that are available online for you to look at, learn and explore. Boredom is the sign of someone who just doesn’t feel any enthusiasm for their industry anymore and that’s baaaaaaaad. (Either that, or you just need another cup of coffee!)

So – now we know that saying the ‘q’ word or the ‘b’ word are bad, what can we do to fix it?

Well, let me tell you – there’s *a lot* you can be doing…a lot more than you probably thought there was!

If you’re a sysadmin, chances are you might be a little bit behind on some of your proactive work or learning, so let me give you a quick refresher on things you can do when you feel you’ve got nothing to do:

  • Update your documentation – yes, this can be boring. But it’s invaluable. Go through documentation for the systems you’re using the most or that you’ve been working on lately and ensure the documentation for them is updated. Make sure you’ve got network/system diagrams – and if you don’t, make them! Check if the documentation is even still needed and, if it isn’t, archive it!
  • Understand your systems – is there a system that your team looks after that you’re not familiar with? Go ask them if they can give you a quick run down on it and get you started on learning how it all works. Cross-skilling is important and it can benefit you in the long run!
  • Check your monitoring systems – chances are you have a monitoring system and it sends you emails and you filter those emails because DAMN is it noisy. Well…go take a look at them. See if any of them need to be investigated – or, even better, see if you can tweak your monitoring system so that you’re not getting as many alerts!
  • Learn something new – is there something you’ve always wanted to know about, but feel like you never have the time? Now’s the chance! Check out some of the amazing online learning tools (Microsft Learn springs to mind!) and see if there’s a course you can do that interests you *and* benefits your role.
  • Mentoring – next best thing after learning something new is *teaching* someone something new! Do you have a service desk or helpdesk? Are there people on them who’d like to advance their skills? Go teach them something! It’s great for you, as it’s letting you become a better professional and also get some teaching experience, and it’s fantastic for them. A win-win! (Thanks to @skyalin for this one!)
  • Automation – is there a task that you hate doing? See if you can automate it. If not, make sure it’s documented completely so that you’re not the only one doing it!
  • DR Testing – Have a DR plan? Have you ever *tested* that plan? Well, now’s the time. Make sure it works…and make sure you’re not the only one who knows how to implement it! (Thanks to John Yopp for this one!)
  • Check for IT News – let’s be honest, we’re in an ever-changing industry, so it’s not surprising that trying to keep up with it can be hard. If you have some downtime, go read up on what’s happened in the industry lately, changes that are coming and things you should be focusing on. This is invaluable to your job and your work place!

I’m sure I’ve missed some, so feel free to let me know what I’ve missed by chucking it in the comments and I’ll add it into the post (with credit, of course!)

5 thoughts on “The two words an IT admin should *never* utter…

  1. skyalin

    I always enjoyed helping the service desk folks learn new stuff. Not only is it an excellent use of your downtime, it is good for their careers and yours as well.


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