“I can still fix this!” is the battle-cry of the resilient or the delusional. Most of the time it is the difference between salvaging the current situation or predicament over spending a commensurate effort in going back to square one and starting from scratch. The key phrase is “most of the time” as there will be cases wherein it is so easy to use that to fall under the fallacy of sunk cost. Sunk cost is the immaterial feeling of trying to extract value from something that should have already been stopped, shelved, or disposed instead of sucking more valuable resources in the hope that it will still work.

In my line of (IT) work the duration gap between sunk cost and salvageable can vary from 2 hours to 4 days depending on the complexity of the task and the projected total effort to complete it. This makes it a bit more tricky to determine the boundary especially if its a task that borders on the extremes of being really challenging and engaging to complete; or very effort intensive and monotonous. The key seems to be to always have the time to stop at certain intervals and re-assess if what we are doing still makes sense; or would it be more productive to start all over again so we can do the task with a clean slate and incorporate all the lessons derived from the mistakes and solutions we have done. Sometimes the restart is necessary to come up with a better result over salvaging the current abomination with lots and lots of duct tape.