One of the reasons I like the metaphor of "technical debt" is because I see it causing in the datacenter the same paralysis as personal debt yields in households: people who lament for extended periods how awful it is, to the point that they miss out on the action to correct it.
I get it. When you have 40,000 lines of legacy spaghetti on your desk, or a connect who-knows-where, it's easy to stall. Even staffers who truly believe Martin Fowler when he teaches, "... speed [of development] requires quality", or who know that the debt-free life is better, sometimes forget to start. I've come to realize that start is much of the value of celebrity counselor Dave Ramsey's "debt snowball". It's not so much magical arithmetic as good psychology--but of course good magic is largely psychological. Debt snowballs make a little progress, practice the snowball-pusher in good habits, and energize attitudes to attack the next problem.
Invest a half hour to identify one improvement you can make this week: leverage
enum-s in a body of code, or identify and analyze all the "
SELECT * FROM ..." or "naked" (unqualified) exceptions you know are festering in your reporting system, or refactor the network assignments for a single rack. Imagine how you'll feel once you've cleaned that one small corner of your life. Then make it real!
Your biggest gain from this is less material than attitudinal. If you start with 40,000 lines of code you hate, after the exercise you might still have 39,992 lines of code you hate. In that dimension, the difference is inconsequential. This, of course, is that reason that smart, insightful developers and administrators can so rationally be slow to start. What they miss is the change in their own attitude that such a start brings. Buy yourself a measure of success and accomplishment today. Start!