Do small, menial tasks when you’re bored, especially if they improve the lives of others.


I’ve been volunteering my time by helping on a project at EAA Chapter 119, a Q-200 dubbed “Duckie”. I learned that the chapter’s bandsaw, sitting in the corner, was not functioning. Why? Because the switch, which also functions as a fuse, was burnt out.

How long was it like that? Who can say? However, the fix was simple: a 5 minute job.

However, when I plugged in the bandsaw before swapping the switch, I realized that the old switch was perfectly fine. The band saw blade was not on the pulleys. When I put the blade back on the pulleys, the blade did not stay on the pulley because it was very much out of alignment.

Lessons Learned

How many times have you been held back by a five-minute job of a “$10 switch”? I’m a young engineer, but I already have experiences with this. Plenty of companies love to ignore their tooling. There will always be talks of deadlines, but there’s almost never any talk of the five-minute jobs that make the engineers’ lives so much better.

Shortly after I started my first software engineering job, we implemented a “Tech-Debt Friday”. We would spend just one dedicated hour every Friday to cleanup tech-debt, remove dead code, and rewrite documentation. This is an example of a $10 switch job: going slightly out of your way order to have compounded productivity in the future.

Where Is He Going with This?

There are many people in Silicon Valley that scream for and against tech-debt. This is as much of a waste of time as Tabs v. Spaces. Focus on what actually matters: making great things that you can be proud of. So what are you waiting for? Make a mess and make mistakes, but also be ready to grab a broom to clean up after yourself when you’re finished.