Time management (Part 2)

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My first job was working for EDS on a software project in Rhode Island.  We were implementing the software to run the state Medicaid system.  It was a large project.  Everyone was overworked and everything was going wrong.  And to put it mildly, we were losing money.  In fact, for the longest time, we were unable to get paid at all by the client because our system was not working very well.

It was during those days that I learned the difference between maintenance and development.  Maintenance refers to doing the things that you have to do just have to stay operational.  In essence, it means treading water.  Fixing broken code is an example of maintenance. 

Development refers to making improvements or taking something to another level.  In the software world, development might mean adding features that make the software more valuable. 

In business, the most important difference between maintenance and development is this: you lose money on maintenance and you make money on development.  No customer is going to pay you fix broken code but they will pay you to improve the product.

When you feel overwhelmed with problems like we felt on that account, the tendency is to spend all your time fighting fires.  In other words, you spend all your time on maintenance.  But we had a manager who was continually pushing us to spend time on development.  He wanted us to spend maybe 1/3rd of our time on development and 2/3rds on maintenance.  From his perspective, it was a money thing.  He could not bill the customer for our maintenance hours but he could bill for our development hours.

In life, we have the maintenance vs development concept too.  Maintenance might refer to such tasks as shopping, cooking, cleaning, household maintenance, cutting grass, changing oil, paying bills and commuting.  Development might refer to investing in people, training your children, studying, developing your spiritual life, honing a skill, starting a business/ministry or building something of value.

And that brings me to my time management strategy for the week.  Make sure you understand the difference between maintenance and development.  Then analyze the things you spend your time on to see which bucket they belong in.  Lastly, examine your life to see if you are overloaded one way or the other. 

Most people spend too much of your time on maintenance at the expense of development.  That is a trap you need to avoid.  A life of treading water is not a life you want to have.  We were created for more than that.

So the question that many will have at this point is this: How can I spend time on development if I don’t even have time to get all my maintenance things done?  That is a valid question and one we will start talking about in the next post of this series.