You will never be done

In the business world, work frequently happens within a project. Success depends on completing all the tasks on time and budget. And a project has a beginning and an end.

At work, we are encouraged to build and reinforce certain "type A" character traits: competitiveness, restlessness, and a strong sense of time urgency. We should tick boxes, close loops, and archive projects.

Keeping loops open makes people, at best, uneasy and, at worst, burned out.

That's why open-ended or forever ongoing projects are taxing for the people involved. Team morale can drop proportionally as low as the stress can get high.

Luckily, most work projects aren't open-ended.
But in life, many things are open-ended, either by nature or because they don't have objective deadlines.

Because we are used to being in "project mode," applying a similar structure to everything is tempting. We conceptualize our health, career, our own business or new product, or our children's education as projects. Projects made of a defined list of tasks to tackle. Projects we will be able to archive at some point.

It's an occupational hazard. The project structure isn't always desirable or suitable, and it is certainly not a universal way to frame every life endeavor.

We create incorrect expectations by applying a project structure to something that can't be treated as a project.

Health, career, or starting a business are open-ended endeavors. If we fail to recognize this consciously, we will stress over the little things, obsess about marking tasks as done, and feel burned out because we will never be done with them.

Take a house, for instance. A house is an ongoing project. A week after purchasing a house, you must pick up the apples from the ground and cut the grass.

There is always something to do in a house, whether in the garden or simply maintaining it in good condition. It's an asset, and you want to preserve its value at the very least.

Shortly after we bought our house, we created a shared to-do list to keep track of everything.

From the start, I've had mixed feelings about this list. On one hand, knowing what needed to be done felt good. On the other hand, it reinforced the false idea that we will one day be done with chores forever.

It will never be the case.

A house, a company, a career, or worrying for your kids; all of these will pretty much never end. Not until the sweet relief of death.

Owning this house helped me understand three mistakes that cause stress:

1- Chasing an illusion: Believing we will find bliss once all tasks are completed. Believing that we can achieve "done".

2- Arbitrary deadlines: Setting deadlines for non-urgent tasks.

3- Mistaking open-ended projects for regular projects. "Things to do in the house" is not a project. "Remodeling the kitchen" is a project.

To reduce stress, start by recalibrating your expectations for the good life.

No sailor expects smooth sailing to last forever.

The forever bliss you are chasing doesn't exist.
You will never be done.