When was the last time that you were bitten by putting off something that you should have taken care of immediately? Did it cause a big inconvenience in your life? Did it cost you a lot of money? Technical debt is sneaky because we often don’t recognize when we are incurring it.
Technical debt is a catch-all term used to describe anything, that when not done today, will cost us more money down the road. For example, recently I dropped my car off for an oil change. When I picked up my car they told me that I needed a new battery. I grumbled about the cost, told them thanks for letting me know, and said I would take care of it next time I am in for another oil change. Now its summer, the days are getting hotter, and its hell on a car battery. If I don’t replace the battery soon, I am likely to hop in my car one day and find that it won’t start. Then I am going to need a tow, a new battery, and it will probably happen at a very inconvenient time too. As much as I don’t want to, replacing the battery now (paying down the technical debt) is the right answer.
Where do we find sources of technical debt in our lives?
- Deferring maintenance on our home or automobile
- Owing a friend money and not getting around to paying them back yet
- Not taking the time to go and see a loved one
- Waiting too long to take a vacation or mental health day
When I take stock of technical debt in my life, I am often surprised at how much I find. Not only can technical debt cost me money, it has a bad habit of “renting space in my mind.” What do I mean by that? It causes worry; every time I put the key in my car and crank it I am concerned that it won’t start. Worry can becoming all-consuming and cause stress and even illness. It’s for those reasons that I try to eliminate all sources of worry from my life. If technical debt causes worry, then I should try to minimize it in my life.
Here are some practical ways to pay down technical debt:
- Go ahead and schedule the appointment, even if it’s down the road. Whether it’s taking your car in for service, visiting the doctor for your annual physical exam, or spending time with loved ones. Once it’s on your calendar it’s easier to remember and you can better prepare for it.
- Adopt the mantra of “Do it now!” rather than “It can wait until tomorrow”. Sometimes taking five minutes to take care of something now can save you hours later.
- For things that cost money it’s a good idea to set aside an emergency fund. That way when an unexpected expense comes along you don’t have to go into debt to cover it.
While it may not be possible to totally eliminate technical debt from your life it is possible; to become skilled at recognizing it, plan ahead to avoid it, and align how you live your life to minimize it. Don’t let technical debt rent space in your mind. Eliminate it and live the life that you want to live.
Have a great story of how technical debt ate your lunch? Please share it in the comments section below.