When you consistently take time to do things right, fires don’t happen as often, and they aren’t as bad.

The reason technical debt is called that is because you’re borrowing time and money from your future self. And just like financial debt, technical debt is difficult to get rid of. The frequency and severity of the urgent issues keeps increasing, which leaves you less time to do things right.

Also, the urgent issues distract from the important. It is difficult to think about the long-term strategy when you are struggling to keep the system stable today. It is difficult to be creative when the immediate issues automatically trigger the fight-or-flight response, which narrows our focus and steers our attention towards the problem.

In addition, if you put out fires all the time, your brain gets conditioned to expect fires. Even if everything seems to be fine, your brain sees that as the calm before the storm and still puts you on high-alert.

It’s hard to break out of this cycle. The anxiety and fear diminish your ability to think clearly. It’s difficult to step back and recognize the real problem.

Dealing with issues symptomatically is not going to fix the root cause. The only viable alternative, then, is to address the underlying issue, until it’s too late.