The first time that I recall hearing this saying, was while watching “the great food truck race” with Tyler whats-his-face. He was schooling some of the new food-truck chefs to clean up, after a long day of working. I was somehow deeply inspired by this saying. I can’t believe that I’ve never heard it before. This sounds like the kind of thing I would have heard while I was in the army. Maybe I wasn’t listening at the time.
I’m a naturally active person. I just can’t sit still for long. When I was a kid my parents often accused me of having “ants in my pants”. Even as an adult, if there is anything I need to be doing, I just can’t sit and relax. A person does need some down-time, but that doesn’t mean you by-pass your work. It means you need to catch your breath, and then get back to work and earn an “A”.
I often hear about teams who seem to accumulate technical debt. When I hear about it, I have to scratch my head and think about how this is possible. How could you just accumulate technical debt, and just like, leave it there? When you eat a candy bar, do you just drop the wrapper where you are standing? When you finish dinner, do you just walk away from the table without clearing it? Does your trash can just walk itself to the curb each week?
How does this stuff not haunt you at night?! If that was me, I would seriously wake up in the middle of the night, because I had a nightmare about technical debt, waiting for me, and I can’t get back to sleep, so I would have to pace until sun-up. Can people actually sleep through stuff like that?
I suppose some people may try to justify it with logic like, “I’m just too busy, making new stuff and meeting aggressive timelines”. When they get some down-time, there are more excuses, “I’ve been stressed by my busy schedule. So now, I require this quiet time to recharge and unwind, rather than doing more clean-up work”.
I don’t buy it. My parents raised me on the following concepts:
- A job isn’t done until you’ve cleaned up after yourself
- If you got it out, you must put it away
- If you touched it, you are now responsible for it
- When you use a tool, return it in better condition than you found it
- Clean up after yourself, as you work. If you leave your messes till the end, they will seem too big to handle
- Cleaning up is not somebody else’s job. Have the dignity to clean up after yourself. It shows respect for others.
- It doesn’t matter if you made the mess. Just clean it up. Messes don’t ever seem to clean themselves up.
Bottom line: Don’t leave technical debt. It is the same as leaving any other mess or trash, laying around. It is disrespectful to others and it shows that you have a lack of dignity for others and yourself. If you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean. And if you don’t have time, then make the time. Seriously, you can’t live with garbage lying around at your feet. Bend over and pick it up. Clean it and put it away where it goes.
Get it done and then enjoy your down-time with a free conscience.