Tools and Processes for “Fitting it all in”

Tools and Processes for “Fitting it all in”

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Most data professionals I’ve met work in two modes: we plan for our day, and we react to the situations around us. I’m staring at my list of things that I need to do today right now, which is my planned work. Of course, I have no idea how much of that will really get done – it’s optimistic to be sure. On the other hand I have several systems I manage, and at any moment one of them or the people that interface with them may “change state” such that I need to give them some attention.

So how do I meld the two? Sometimes it can be quite difficult. I’m constantly working through my list in my mind, re-arranging what I’m focusing on based on what I perceive as the highest need. There are, however, some tools that I use each day to help me manage the workflow.

I use Outlook for tracking everything, since it has a task list (my primary tracking), a calendar, mail and so on. Also I can share the information, it’s on-line so I can see it anywhere, and I can even take it offline onto the plane this week when I fly out of town.

For the “ad-hoc” work, I rely on a script library, which I keep as SQL Server Management Studio projects. I keep those scripts and projects backed using Microsoft Live Mesh, which synchronizes those files (along with a few other critical files and my IE Favorites) across not only my laptop and primary systems, but even with my Virtual Machines.

Also for my SQL Server systems I use the Standard Reports I’ve blogged about here. I also use Greg Larsen’s Database Dashboard, and a series of PowerShell scripts that work across my systems, alerting me to any problems. Of course I’m using SQL Server Agent Jobs quite a bit, and I also use Alerts and some Perfmon automation for my monthly baselining.

So – is this your experience as well? Do you get driven by both planned and unplanned work? What tools and processes do you use to keep it all straight with your SQL Server Instances?

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  • I blogged on this last year (

    http://midnightdba.itbookworm.com/midnightdba/blog/post/How-do-you-keep-track.aspx)...a relevant portion:

    I keep a time log, to do list, and list of Done items in a Word document.  I keep one Word document per day (today's is named 20090921_M.docx).   EVERY time someone asks for something, I change direction, or I complete something (even if it's firing off an important email), I'll put it in the time log or done.  Every Friday (or the following Monday, if I'm crunched), I copy the time and done lists into a summary page, and edit it down for public consumption.  I also keep Outlook reminders for meetings and long term (or important) due dates.

    It's not perfect, but it's a decent pagefile for my brain...

  • For me Outlook is the center of the vortex as far as overall control.  On the SQL side we are starting with SQL Sentry for our production servers.  Over all a very nice tool for the "big picture".  Nothing you couldn't get yourself but it's all prettied up and ready to go to town.

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