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Work Now or Work (And Pay) Later

Work costs something whenever you do it…

This weekend we had some nice weather on Sunday. In between church activities and family time, I took advantage of the weather to get some work done on our vegetable garden. We chose to try a “no dig” raised bed vegetable garden. Basically you pile various materials (grass clippings, compost, leaves, straw, etc.) into rows. It composts and becomes a really great growing medium. This year we started in the spring, had to add a lot of soil amendments and had some good results. Today, I was rebuilding the rows so by spring planting season the rows will be good to go (just add some more straw/grass/compost from our pile and throw in the plants).

This Wasn’t “Free”

While I was out there raking, shoveling and lugging soaked straw and grass, I caught myself thinking some negative thoughts. “Just sit down and relax! Play with the kids, go watch some football, it’s almost winter, do it in the spring”, were some of the thoughts going through my head.

I had to spend time and some energy working out there.  If I listened to the inner argument, I could have easily rationalized my leaving the garden for next year and gone about my day happily.

(It just tends to cost more later…)

Had I pushed this off to next year a few things would have happened. First of all where I live, we normally plant around memorial day. My wife is currently expecting our third child at the end of May. Lord willing, I am going to be preoccupied with either being at a hospital, helping keep the first two from driving a momma close to her due date from going insane or getting last minute things done around the house.

Had I pushed this off to the spring, the materials in the rough format (Grass, Straw, Chicken coop shavings and “manure”, etc.) would not have been ready for planting. I would have to purchase manure, top soil, garden soil, organic fertilizer/etc. This costs money and the stuff I just spread around in the larger piles today was free. We may still add some soil when we put the vegetables in but far less than we would have to.

Even if my wife wasn’t pregnant a safe bet would be, “I am going to be busy with other projects”. Today I didn’t have any urgent tasks that had to get done. I can’t say the same won’t be true at an unknown future date.

Break it down for the day job?

I’m a principal DBA at a very busy, global company. How can this attitude shift help my day job? I touched on the individual contributor aspects of this a bit in my “Where do I start?!?!” post – Being proactive during down time is key. It should make the reactive moments occur less frequently. Taking care of the “boring” or tedious tasks today will help you in the future. It sounds corny but a good idea is to let the future be your motivation. Today out in the garden, thinking of one less thing to worry about at an unknown future date kept me motivated.

Have some spare time?

  • Automate some aspect of your job (learn and use Power Shell, try and buy a third party tool for checking over your environment)
  • Test a restore (Remember my philosophy – people focus on their backups too much)
  • Implement that security scheme you have been meaning to
  • Document your processes (I know, it’s not fun but embrace documentation. I have – what if you get some help someday, wouldn’t you want to hand off a document for some of your tasks and have them help you right away?)
  • Learn a new skill that will make you a better DBA and act as a force multiplier (unless you work a magical company that has just the right amount of DBAs)

It works at the corporate level also

The focus above is what we could do today as DBAs in some spare time to perhaps save some future time or make life easier for us someday. What about decisions that you help make as a part of your company?

Do you help make the tough decisions? Do you help make the right decision that might incur more pain now but less in the future? Or do you opt to help push for the easy solution today and figure it may be someone else’s problem in the future?

Some Examples

Have you ever had to deal with a crowded single array SAN plagued with some performance woes but no easy way to alleve those? Were you there when the decision was made to just throw it together any which way as requests were made? Yeah, it made life easier a the time of the request but those extra 30 minutes months ago could have bought you days or weeks today.

“We’ll worry about the maintenance tasks later, we need to go live ASAP!” – If later even comes it is usually much later and now things are so out of whack that the only reason you are working on the instance is because your users are in a bad spot and management is not so happy. Another case of a little investment having big benefits (or not making that tiny investment having huge costs today

I could go on (so could you, I imagine)

But the point should be clear: Procrastination in IT has a very high future cost. Often the cost is exponentially higher than the savings you are realizing today. Spend the time and the money at the beginning and do something right. Failure to do this means agony later.

Can’t get motivated (a common problem, in a fast paced world where I am the single DBA the temptation to “pay later” comes at least daily on tasks)? Well don’t do it for the benefit today. Think of the future benefit. Think of the time you are saving in the future. If I were to tell you that socking away $50 today would give you an 85% chance of earning $500 in as short as 3-6 months (and even more later), you’d take me up on the offer (or call me Bernie Madoff and run away).

This all sounds great… Now just do it. Pick on project you are working on this week and go above and beyond.

For me,  as a Christian, I should really just be motivated by a great scriptural reference I put on my business cards – Col 3:23-24 – “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” I try to remember that not only am I doing work today for myself in the future but I am doing it for Christ. Even still, the “simple today” road is tempting.

How about you? What do you find? Any horror stories of paying later? Any success stories of paying later that are contrary points?

Article by Mike Walsh

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3 thoughts on “Work Now or Work (And Pay) Later”

  1. I think you’re starting to meddle here, Mike. 🙂

    Good reminder about what we should be doing and I appreciate the encouragement to step it up some in things I’ve been neglecting.

  2. I should have added my standard disclaimer, Peter. Perhaps that would have felt better then? "Please note, this post is more to myself and a reminder of the things I should be (but often am not) doing"


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