Every decision you make costs more than you expect it to.
For those who aren’t familiar with the term, “technical debt” refers to the concept of extra work needed to fix things that weren’t properly coded or planned in the first place. It is a major problem among engineers and product managers, because at some point the built-up legacy code needs to be re-factored and re-built from scratch, which takes a massive amount of time and resources.
Sometimes technical debt arises from poor decisions years ago, other times it arises naturally. Sometimes you see it coming from miles away, other times it sneaks up on you. And having small, manageable amounts of technical debt is very common, necessary, and more than fine.
The problem arises when the debt is continually not repaid. When it becomes unmanageable. When that happens, every minute you spend on “not-quite-right” code counts as interest on that debt, which makes the total price you pay even higher.
I’ve begun thinking about this concept lately as it applies to real-life.
We don’t think about it much, but every life decision we make, big and small, accumulates some level of technical debt that has to be “repaid.”
Sure, there are some obvious life decisions that come to mind, such as buying a home, getting married, or having kids. It’s no secret that these enormous choices we make have a tremendously large effect on our lives later on.
But the truth is, the little bits of debt that we take on can have just as large of an effect, and we often don’t realize it.
Let’s say you discover a cool new social site. You check it out, decide to join, and create an account. You find yourself going to the site each morning before you go to work, and a bit when you come home. Before you know it, you’re spending a half-hour each day. The amount of time you are spending on the site was a hidden cost, that only becomes clear over time.
The same concept applies to everything we do, and every choice we make.From where you live, how far you commute & how much you exercise, to the websites you “need” to go to each day, the big fish tank you buy that needs cleaning, or your 15 perpetually open tabs on your browser, awaiting to be read.
All of this is debt we repay in one way or another, be it through work, our health, our attention, or our time. Even if you have automated systems in place to manage it all, it sneaks up on you. It adds up, both physically and mentally.
Lots of little things don’t mean much on their own, until you have too much debt to manage. And once your debt load exceeds your ability to manage it all, you’ve taken on too much. This is what causes garages & basements overflowing with crap, lack of time & energy, and of course, stress. When that happens, it’s time for a reset. Time to re-factor the code.
So as you go through your day, think about the hidden costs of each choice you make. This definitely helps avoid the consequences of taking on too much debt.