Paying down debt

Computer programmers have a concept of “technical debt,” also known as “design debt.” The basic idea is that coding errors need to be fixed as you go, or they will “accrue interest” and be harder to pay off down the road.

This idea makes a great deal of sense in many areas of life.

When you’re cutting calories and increasing exercise to shed excess weight, you’re essentially paying down debt from caloric overspending in the past.

Staying up late might help you finish a project, but you could be paying the price in lost focus and productivity for days, even weeks, after the project is completed.

If you’re surrounded by clutter and chaos, you’ve accumulated debt. Paying it down by simplifying and organizing might take time, but you’ll be more efficient and less stressed.

I’m not a programmer, but I have written several novels that taught me how much difference a thoroughly debugged plot outline can make. Everyone’s writing process is different, but for me, diving into the narrative before I’ve worked out the plot problems seldom ends well. The need to pay down design debt adds many hours to the writing time.

Paying down debt is all about moving forward. That might seem like a paradox, because it demands that you address actions taken in the past, but the sooner you do it, the lower the total cost.

The interest rate on unresolved problems is higher than anyone can afford.