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September 2012

     Why Routine Maintenance Gets Ignored
     Personal Calendar in Excel?

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Why Routine Maintenance Routinely Gets Ignored

Most people will agree that routine maintenance, at least for some things, is a good idea – a “best practice”. Then why do so many of us neglect it and then suffer the consequences? There are several reasons, but they all stem from common, all-too-human shortcomings: ignorance, laziness, fear, and greed.

Let’s enumerate the common excuses:
  • I didn’t know I had to do that.   (ignorance)
  • I never learned how to do that.   (ignorance)
  • I didn’t realize how often I needed to do that.   (ignorance)
  • I was afraid that if I tried to do that, I’d break something.   (fear)
  • I don’t have the right tools and parts to do that properly.    (greed & laziness)
  • Does that really do any good?   (ignorance & laziness)
  • I don’t have time for that.    (laziness)
  • It’s such a pain in the neck.   (laziness)
  • It’s so boring; I never feel like doing it.  (laziness)
  • I keep forgetting to do that.    (laziness)
  • Won’t that cost money?    (greed)
However, if we only realized the benefit of a well-tuned machine / tool / instrument, we would be motivated, energized, and interested; so, we’d be more than willing to expend time and money toward that end.
Think about physical exercise. Everybody agrees that exercise is beneficial; but, how many of us get the adequate amount of exercise in our daily lives? Why not? Choose any or all of the excuses above. But if we only realized that physical exercise enables us to live longer, healthier, more productive, more vital lives, aside from making us feel and look better, that would go a long way to motivating us. But motivation is not enough. We need plans and strategies to overcome all the objections that come our way. It’s easy to exercise for one day; it’s much harder to exercise for a week. The real goal and the long-term rewards come from exercising consistently for a lifetime.
How do we overcome:
  • IGNORANCE - Learn or consult an expert. Read a book or surf the web for answers. If you don’t like your expert and/or the answers given, then find a new one. 
  • LAZINESS - Realize the benefit and make a commitment. Compose a plan with goals and milestones and stick to it. Yes, it’s easier said than done. Decide or consult with an expert on how to best actualize your commitment.
  • FEAR – These kinds of fears usually come from a combination of ignorance and laziness. Learn, be ready to make mistakes, practice, remember your motivation and your fears will dissipate.
  • GREED -  Remember that to do a job right, you need the tools, the parts, the training, and the motivation. Steel yourself for some initial investment. Routine maintenance will pay off in the long run. Think about how good you’ll feel that you’re doing the right thing.
Do you have to invest in those things that you depend on?  No. But if you want to get the most out of them, if it means enough to you, then the answer is yes, you must. If you want your guitar to sound its best, it must be tuned. If you want your teeth to last a lifetime, then you must brush them regularly. Keep this is mind and you’ll stay motivated. Devise a routine, learn, hire an expert. Do whatever you need to do to make sure that you do what you must do in order to be your best.

A Personal Calendar in Excel?   

If you’re like me and if you’re like most people, then there’s enough going on in your life to need a calendar to keep track of it all. Do the routine maintenance items get put on your calendar? Such items often don’t get done, not because people don’t have the time (although it may seem that way), but because they don’t keep proper track of those things. Think about the last time you replaced your home air filter, tuned up your car, backed up your data files, or had your eyes checked. If you’re lucky, your doctor or mechanic will send reminder notes. If not, these things may never happen.
Paper calendars are useful to a degree; however, paper calendars cost money, take up valuable desk real-estate (or they won’t get looked at), and aren’t so useful for too-frequent  (e.g. weekly) or too-rare (e.g. biannual) events.  Especially for periodic events (like “mortgage bill due”), who needs all that writing work and mess on their calendar?
Electronic calendars, like that provided by Outlook, overcome many of the drawbacks of paper calendars. But, I, personally, have never been very happy with these calendars. Again, it’s a lot of work filling the calendar in for periodic events. Also, what to do to show that you’ve completed the action on the calendar? Do you erase it, cross it out, leave it? Do you need to look back through the past months to find anything you’re late on?
I wanted a calendar that would work well for periodic routine tasks (like a biweekly allergy shot), that would get tagged until accomplished. I worked up the following prototype calendar in Excel.


Note that the fact the lawn never got mowed shows up in red.  The birthday, today, shows up in bright yellow. Items coming up this week show up in green.  The Excel file is linked here. Feel free to try it out. Contact me with any questions.

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