Sunday, July 24, 2011

Maintenance: Keeping your tools ready for action

Tools radically expand our capabilities and we're great at picking the right tool for the job. All too often we quietly neglect the step that allows us to continue using those tools: Maintenance.
The costs of maintenance are pretty easy to figure out. It takes time, effort, sometimes a trip to the mechanic, and all while the tool is still performing its job just fine.
If they find something wrong when you take your car or your teeth in for a checkup, it's usually an expensive, painful fix. One which you could have avoided in the short term by skipping the checkup.
It's a head in the sand approach to problem solving. Immature and ineffective. Like most things, ignoring the problem has consequences further down the road.
To care about maintenance, you need to care about the future. If you want to avoid breakdowns in the future, you need to maintain your car before it's broken.
If you sharpen your saw it will work better when you need to use it again, but sharpening the saw doesn't get wood cut. To bother, you need to think ahead to next time. An action now for a future benefit.
Another way to look at this is to consider the cost of maintenance now vs. the cost of maintenance later. Deferring maintenance means it will cost more to fix later, because things continue to degrade as time goes by.
If it's a choice of a small hit now or a big hit later, the small hit now is the more responsible choice, even though we're biased towards the here and now.
Some things, like skills and muscles, degrade not with use but with neglect. If you learned to speak French but never practice, the skill will have withered somewhat. A little maintenance, in the form of practicing, will help maintain it. The same goes for relationships. If you don't maintain them they'll disappear on you.
Whether it's your saw, your car, or your body, stick with the maintenance now, even if it's a little inconvenient. You'll be the one reaping the benefits down the road.
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